Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Winter Ops

Anyone that has been following my posts recently would probably think that I'm pretty spoiled with all this nice Caribbean and Hawaiian flying. And they would be right.

But I was jolted back to reality the other day when I had to dust off the leather jacket... Destination Vancouver.

Looking out my hotel room window in the morning revealed a fresh layer of snow. The news was reporting temps in the low teens! That's nothing for some parts of Canada but it's a little cold for Vancouver. Even the locals were complaining!

From our slow drive to the airport to the slow security process to the slow boarding, everything seems to move slower in the winter.

It has been quite some time since I have heard an ATIS broadcast referring to runways and taxiways being plowed and sanded and to use caution for snowbanks. All taxiways were reported to be icy. So I guess we'd taxi slow also!

De-icing complete and we were ready to pushback and startup. But even the Rolls Royce engines were slow to wake up. And then while taxiing out ( at a snails pace), we had an engine limiter computer failure message. OK...so we ask ATC if we can pull over somewhere and work it out. Ten minutes later we have it fixed and are finally ready to launch for Texas.

Runway 08Right....Cleared for takeoff. Call departure control airborne....Have a good flight eh!Vancouver looks like a nice city. I wish we had more time to spend there. (In the summertime).
Very soon we were in US airspace and Mt Baker was approaching. Quite a sight in the morning sun.The Cascades would soon pass behind us...three and a half hours remained to DFW. Then a short break and on to Miami for the night. The cold weather ops were now behind us.
I wouldn't be needing that leather jacket in Miami.

Merry Christmas to everyone.

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

Monday, December 15, 2008

Fire Down Below

Cruising high above the earth provides for some interesting sightseeing at times.

Much of my flying recently has been at night, so the photo opportunities have been limited. But a recent daytime leg from San Juan to DFW, along with clear skies, allowed for a few good shots of the landscape below.

Due to some major cutbacks in service from AA, the congestion at the San Juan airport has decreased dramatically. The airport is a virtual ghost town as compared to recent years when it was booming. The lines at security used to be endless.....nowadays you can get through in a matter of minutes.

Taxi times are short as well. We were airborne only five minutes after pusback.

Workloads in the cockpit are relatively easy on this leg. Radio communications are all VHF. The ATC controllers at San Juan Center speak impeccable English, and there is radar coverage along the entire route so no position reporting is required. And the sights along the way are pretty good too. It doesn't get much easier.

Weather permitting, routings from San Juan are almost always direct to Miami and then across the Gulf of Mexico to Louisiana and then on to DFW.
We climbed unrestricted up to 36,000 ft and settled in for the five hour leg to Texas. The island of Hispaniola with the neighboring countries of the Dominican Republic and Haiti were first in view. Then along came Turks and Caicos. After that came the Bahamas with it's countless islands and clear water.A few hours later we had burned off enough fuel to climb up to 40,000 ft and were passing over the city of New Orleans and the Mississippi River.Shortly after passing New Orleans we could see a multitude of smoke plumes coming from the fields down below. Having seen this many times over the years I knew that it was harvest time in the sugar cane fields.

Apparently part of the process of harvesting the sugar cane involves burning the fields of all the unwanted leaves and unusable parts but it leaves the stalks and roots unharmed. I hear that it smells pretty bad!
Not long after that, one of the cabin crew called up and reported that many of the passengers were wanting to know what was on fire down below and would I please make a PA to that effect.

I prefer not to make unnecessary PA's inflight since it interrupts the movie that is playing (and also wakes up many people) and some folks don't like that, so I just told her what was burning and asked her to relay that information directly. Shortly after, I heard her make a PA anyhow!
Not much to see after that. The sightseeing was over for the day and all that was left was the descent and landing at DFW.

Another good trip in the logbook.....

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