Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Business As Usual In Costa Rica

Back in San Jose, Costa Rica again.This time it would be a non-stop flight back to home base in Texas. A 4.5 hour leg.

Our ground personnel at SJO are fantastic. They typically have everyone boarded and bags loaded at least 15 minutes prior to scheduled departure time. I have never seen a delayed departure there. Today was no different.

Our call for ATC clearance to DFW was immediately answered with "cleared as filed". What a contrast from my last post concerning the ATC difficulties in Caracas, Venezuela.Numerous airlines outsource their planes to Costa Rica for maintenance. This is a huge issue for several US airlines and their unions, but I'll save that for another post. Apparently the labor is less expensive there. This MD-80 was having some repairs done there as we taxied by.

A very short delay for a landing Navajo and then we were rolling on runway 07.

The Rolls Royce engines on the 757 deliver so much power that most of our takeoffs are made using less than full power. But SJO rests at an elevation of just over 3000 feet and the terrain around the airport requires some delicate climb procedures so we often use maximum power for takeoff.

The runway slopes uphill so we did indeed use max power for takeoff. Additionally we were fully loaded and carrying extra fuel for some potential destination weather.

The climb procedure from runway 07 requires a very steep climb and a hard right turn not too far off the departure end of the runway. If the turn is not made in time, the surrounding terrain can interfere with your flight path! Bad times...

The First Officer was flying this leg today. He lifted off at 135 knots, called for "gear up", and pitched up into a 25 degree nose up climb attitude. At the appropriate distance from the field he rolled into the right turn while still in the steep climb with flaps still extended. Once headed back away from the mountains he called for flaps up, climb power, and away we went. A perfectly executed takeoff and climb.

The tower switched us over to departure control and my call was quickly answered with "climb to Flight Level 380 and cleared on course". That's great service....unlike some other place that I know of.

Our routing this day initially took us over the countries of Nicaragua and El Salvador.

Approaching the city of Managua, Lake Managua was clearly visible.

Further down the road we could see a small volcano. I believe that it was in El Salvador but I'm not positive. Nevertheless, it was pretty cool!
We then turned to the north up over Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, and finally back in US airspace as we made landfall over the city of Galveston, Tx.

A smooth descent and perfect landing followed. Total flight time was 4 hours 27 minutes.
An early arrival to the gate, a run through customs and immigration, and the day was over. 188 seemingly satisfied'd think.

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


Anonymous said...

You hit it right on the button! I've been to Costa Rica many times, always through your airline, and I've always left on time, and arrived on time.

Fantastic country... if you ever have the chance to explore, I would highly recommend it.

There's a reason these flights are always full. :)

Postcards and Coasters said...

Costa Rica is a beautiful country but all of the countries you flew over sound like they'd also be fun to explore!

Didn't realize its a little bit of a tricky takeoff. That would be a fun layover but San Jose wasn't my favorite city (fumes).

nada said...

I've been keeping track of your blog for a while Len, and its always interesting to read !

Good to know you got good service in Costa Rice. I was wondering what your experience in Mexican airspace has been like (in terms of ATC) ?


Len (Barfbag) said...

Hi Posters!

I gotta your blog! It's just about the best F/A and travel blog I've seen.


Len (Barfbag) said...

Hi Nada,

I only fly to Cancun these days and the ATC service is very good. Back when I flew the MD-80, I went to many other Mexican destinations and I can't remember ever having any bad ATC experiences at all. The only issue I can ever recall was that the Mexican radio quality was quite often less than good. I mean that their English was just fine but the quality of their radios was just bad. Sometimes their transmissions were completely unreadable.


Anonymous said...

Maybe the handshake between B. Obama and Chavez will allow you to have more on time departure.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the handshake between B Obama and H.Chavez will improve the on time departures.

Len (Barfbag) said...

Too funny!!

Roberto said...

Hi Len

Hope you are doing fine!

I'm very pleased to read your stories, in special the one from SJO. I was born in Costa Rica, and I have spent all my life in this beautiful country. I'm a spotter, aviation fan, and very soon I'll start my PPL studies here.

If you want, next time you come back to Costa Rica, give me a shout by MSN or mail at, maybe I can meet you at the airport and have some drinks with you and your crew, if you are allowed.

Please revert as soon as you can.

Kind Regards,
Roberto AlpĂ­zar

Len (Barfbag) said...

Hello Roberto,

I will be sure to contact you the next time I am in SJO.

Thank you for stopping by my blog.


Tom said...

I was out on the west coast today and I saw an AA 757 with winglets.. That has to be the best looking airplane in that combination of airframe, winglets and paintjob, that I've ever seen! It was just ok previously but the winglets combined with the AA paintjob really made this 757 fantastic looking...

Len (Barfbag) said...

Hi Tom,

I have to agree with you. I have always thought that the 757 has always been the nicest looking plane that Boeing has ever produced.

And it sure flies nice too!!