Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Deep South

Most folks think of the deep south as the southeastern portion of the United States.

But the words "deep south" take on an entirely different meaning when us pilots at AA talk about it.

"Deep south" refers to flying south of the border.....WAY south of the border. South America to be exact.

One of the negatives about flying these trips is that they involve all nighters. These flights typically leave DFW in the evening and arrive at their destinations in the early morning. Same thing on the way back....they leave there at night and arrive at DFW in the early morning. Not much sightseeing gets done in flight. It's too dark out.

First up was a trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil. AA currently operates two flights a day to Sao Paulo from DFW and they are both usually pretty full. This trip was no exception.

Another maximum gross weight takeoff from DFW with a climb out to the south was the plan for the southbound leg. We were flight planned just slightly west of course due to Hurricane Ike that was brewing in the Gulf of Mexico just west of Cuba.

Our routing took us directly to the Yucatan Peninsula and over Merida, Mexico. Off to the east we were able to see the leading edge of the hurricane rain bands on the outer most limits of our weather radar screens.

Pressing on we passed Honduras, Panama, Colombia and then finally Brazil. Just because you reach Brazilian airspace doesn't mean you're close....Brazil is huge. We had 4.5 hours to go.
I returned from my rest break at sunrise and we prepared for the approach and landing. Sao Paulo was reporting a 500 ft ceiling with visibility at 500 meters. We would all have preferred a visual approach after an all night leg but the airport at Sao Paulo sits in a small valley that quite often has fog and low ceilings.

We briefed the approach, flew it, landed, taxied to the gate, parked, cleared customs, found the crew bus, and then promptly fell asleep for the hour long ride to our hotel in the city.
And an enormous city it is! I made it out for a short walk that afternoon. The buildings seem to go on for miles.

That night we all met up for dinner. Apparently I had a bad meal because the next day I was sick as a dog. I spent the entire day in my room. What a waste of a 36 hour layover!!

By that night I was feeling better and ready for the trip back home. The hurricane was on everyone's mind and throughout the flight we kept receiving inquiries about it from many of the passengers and crew.

4 hours and 39 minutes after takeoff we passed over the equator over the country of Ecuador. Note our position on the FMS screen. Zero degrees latitude.

Due to Hurricane Ike we had to reroute well to the west. Our route eventually took us over Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and then northward up through Mexico. The hurricane was slamming the city of Houston as we passed over the Rio Grande into Texas. We could see plenty of lightning off in that direction as we continued northward.

DFW was still in good shape as we landed at 6:30 AM. A quick trip through customs and the trip was over.

Next up...Chile. Stay tuned.

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

1 comment:

ProPilots said...

Sorry you got sick Len. Hate that. Glad you recovered in time. I enjoyed a trip to Rio a while back. Yet to go to Sao Paulo but I hear that is in our future. Like the equator shot of the FMS. The uphill portion always takes longer. Once over it its all downhill.