Friday, July 24, 2009

The Midnight Sun

Once again the opportunity came along to trade a Caribbean trip for something different. That something different happened to be a 757 trip up to Anchorage, Alaska.

Never having been that far north I was looking forward to a new destination and setting foot in a new state. I had asked around among the pilot group about the trip and all the reports were positive. There's plenty to do up there. Great fishing, hiking, biking, sightseeing, camping, etc. The only negative to the trip was that it involved a dreaded all-nighter on the way home. And that all-nighter was with a two man crew, not three!

Nevertheless, I made the trade and away we went.

DFW - ANC is a seasonal 757 flight that AA operates from June until September. I don't know why they don't use a larger plane on it because they could easily fill it up all summer long. But that's a question for the bean counters.

We were fully loaded with a butt in every seat for a 4 PM launch from DFW.

A short delay for wake turbulence from the heavy Singapore 747 taking off and then we were airborne. Today our 757 was close to maximim gross weight but you would never know it. It climbed like it always does...beautifully. I wish I had my own personal 757!!

We were flight planned for a 6 hour 35 minute flight. On any flights over 8 hours duration we have to have a third pilot, but today it was just the two of us.

For the first three hours it was non-stop deviating around thunderstorms along the eastern slopes of the Rockies. There was plenty of turbulence to go with that also. But by the time we reached the Canadian border just south of Calgary it started to clear up and smooth out.

Just about then we started receiving the first of the phone calls from the flight attendants: "How much longer? Are we there yet? When will we be there?"
My standard answer is, "We're almost there...just a little bit longer."

After passing Calgary and turning slightly northwest, the scenery starts to get interesting. We crossed over the border from Alberta into British Columbia and started seeing some glaciers down below.

As we progressed, the glaciers became more prevalent. By the time we reached the Alaskan border, the glaciers were commonplace. They were everywhere.

On and on we went. You would expect the sun to be setting before long but at these northern latitudes in the summer, that just doesn't happen.

Off to our right in the Yukon Territory we could see Mt Logan. This is the highest point in Canada at 19,550 ft.

Finally Anchorage Center gave us our clearance to descend to the mid twenties. They kept us up pretty high until clearing the mountains east of the city and then out came the speedbrakes as we reported the runway in sight and were then cleared for a visual approach. A pretty steep descent ensued but I doubt that any of the passengers minded. They were probably ready to be there many hours ago. We landed and made the short taxi in and I noted that it was 10:30 PM in Texas. It didn't feel like it though with the sun still up and not about to set anytime soon.

To top it off, on the ride in to the hotel we saw a large moose just off the side of the road having some dinner. You don't see that in Dallas!

So that was it. Six and a half more hours in the logbook with some truly great memories of my first trip to the 49th state. I'll be headed back there again at least once more this summer. It should be a good time!

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

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

All Is Well In Paris

The opportunity came along recently to trade one of my Caribbean trips for a Paris trip. Not having been there in almost a year and thoroughly enjoying my previous visits to the city, I made the trade.

Departure from DFW is in the late afternoon with an arrival in Paris the following morning.

All loaded up and ready to taxi...get that MD80 out of the way!! We had a mission to accomplish! (they probably did too)

Takeoff weight this day was close to 400,000 lbs. Every seat had an occupant. Our liftoff speed was close to 170 knots with a climb speed of 330 knots above 10,000 ft.
Not a problem for the Boeing and it's General Electric powerplants.

Before long we were pointed Northeast and cruising at 33,000 ft under clear skies as the sun was setting in the West. In just a few hours we would be staring a sunrise in the face and putting up our sun visors.

Paris in the summer seems to bring out the crowds. I don't know if I have ever seen the city quite so busy.

The French have an excellent idea at work in Paris. Bikes for rent. You can rent a bike from a multitude of locations throughout the city. All you need is a credit card and off you go. Then you can drop off your bike at any of those don't have to go back to where you rented it. What a great concept. And they are relatively inexpensive also. I intend to try it someday.

Naturally I had to visit the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. Always an impressive sight.Then a walk through the Latin Quarter.

Kind of busy today.

Is that lady picking her nose?

So then back to the hotel for some rest. The next morning our crew of 13 was up early for the leg back to DFW. Departure from Paris is before Noon with a mid-afternoon arrival time in Texas.

Charles de Gaulle airport is a very busy place. But there's always something interesting to see. Look at this Air France A320 in retro colors.

Next up was this Air France B-747-400 and then it was our turn.

The headwinds were brutal this day. The leg took just over 11 hours. Our individual rest breaks were extra long and allowed for a nap and a movie!

All is well in Paris.

Next up, a trip to the 49th state.

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