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.


diane said...

Just wanted to let you know that I absolutely LOVE your blog!


Len (Barfbag) said...

Hi Diane,

Thanks for stopping by!


Tom said...

Hi Len,
great pictures! I noticed that one is of an AA A300.. I will be flying on one of AA's A300B6's in February, from Miami to Lima, Peru and back. I wanted to ask you what your honest impression was of this aircraft. I am also a pilot and I hear it gets the nickname "cattle car of the sky" because of the coach configuration.

I am actually flying first class but I am curious about the plane itself, as I've never flown on an A300 before... is it a smooth ride? Is firstclass in the A300 comparable to the 767 or is it of lesser quality like its coach config? Any other comments?


Len (Barfbag) said...

Hi Tom,

I'm not real familiar with the Airbus. I've never flown it before...only ridden on it once or twice. It's used primarily in the Caribbean and on a few South American routes. The coach configuration is like any other AA aircraft. It's just that the first class section is somewhat small, therefore the coach section seems exceptionally large hence the "cattle car" nickname.
I believe that the first class seats are just like the 767 seats. But the 767 first class seats are in reality only business class seats. They don't lie flat like the 777 first class seats and they aren't quite as wide. But they still call them first class seats. Kind of deceptive in my opinion.

I have heard that the plane has a very solid wing and rides a little rough in turbulence, but I didn't notice that the few times I flew on it.

AA is slowly retiring them. The nickname that I usually hear is "repair bus"! Probably because they are starting to show their age. But I'm sure that they're perfectly safe. I wouldn't hesitate to get on one at all.

Hope this helps. Have a good trip!


Jeffrey Synk said...

Nice pictures. Aviation does offer a unique opportunity to view our planet and its humanity. Keep posting the pictures and I'll keep coming back.


Len (Barfbag) said...

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for the nice comment and thanks for stopping by.


W. Brown said...

Captain, I read your blog regularly and thoroughly enjoy your comments and photos. Was fortunate enough to be on one of your 763's from DFW to HNL 12/1 returning on 12/12 - listened for your name, but, did not hear it. Thanks to your colleagues, we had great flights and superb service both directions. Looking forward to hearing more about your adventures.

Len (Barfbag) said...

Hi Mr. Brown,

Thanks for the nice comments and for stopping by my blog. Both AA and I appreciate your business!

Happy Holidays,

Merle said...

Flying from JAX to PHX my airline of choice has always been AA. I enjoy your perspectives and pics from the cockpit and wish you and the company all the best in the new year. Perhaps our paths will cross one day.

Len (Barfbag) said...

Hi Merle,

Thank you for the nice comments and thanks for stopping by my blog.

Happy New Year!