Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Scenic Route

The layover having been a great success (a future post), it is time to return to the States.

223 Dallas bound passengers are in their seats, doors closed, checklists complete, and we're pushing back on schedule. Heathrow Ground Control has cleared us to runway 9R. We pass the British Airways terminal #5 on the way. Nice looking fleet of heavies over there!

Kind of busy today, we are number 7 in the lineup behind Iberia.

"Line up and wait" says Heathrow Tower. The First Officer is flying this leg. We are flight planned for a 10 hour 20 minute leg. It will be a long day.

I notice a Qantas A-380 on the parallel taxiway as we pull onto the runway. That is one BIG airplane. UGLY too!"Turn left heading 040 degrees, runway 9 right, cleared for takeoff" says Tower. Takeoff weight today is 401,000 lbs...Liftoff speed will be 168 knots.
We quickly reach takeoff speed, I call "V1", then "rotate", then "V2". We're airborne!

The takeoff is a success...gear in the wells and we're on our way. Flaps are coming up, speed is increasing, we say goodbye to Tower and call Departure Control.

We are now climbing to the Northeast. I can see Wembley Stadium in Northwest London.Soon we are given a turn to fly heading 350 degrees. This takes us directly over Luton Airport.

Not long after, we are cleared on course and find ourselves pointed towards Northern Ireland. Belfast will pass below but no photos as the clouds have interfered.

Again we have a datalink equipped aircraft today so the workload is somewhat reduced. London Control has now said goodbye and we are in the hands of Shanwick Radio. Our oceanic clearance has now been received and confirmed, Selcal checks are complete, the routing has been verified for the third time, climb and cruise checklists are complete, the PA has been made...must be time to eat!

Sure enough...the cockpit chime rings....The choices today are chicken, pasta, or fish.

Initial cruise altitude is FL 320 for the oceanic crossing. The headwinds are lighter towards the Northern latitudes today and we are flight planned to pass just South of Iceland and directly over the Southern portion of Greenland. It is rare to get a look at Greenland due to there always being cloudy skies this far North....but we have our fingers crossed.

As we pass Iceland with solid cloud cover below, the FO has now left and the Relief pilot has taken his place.

Greenland is approaching. It looks like the clouds are breaking.

We have lucked out. The view is fantastic! Look at that glacier.

We press on towards Northeastern Canada. It's cloudy again so no more photos.

But wait, the TCAS shows traffic approaching us from behind and 2000 ft above us. We are cruising at .80 Mach but these guys are passing us quickly! As they pass directly over us we see that it's a Qatar Airways 777. They are clearly in a hurry. Fuel is probably cheap where they come from!

I manage to get a few shots before they're gone.

Several hours to go and soon I get to take my rest break. I try to watch a movie but a nap seems like a better idea. When the purser wakes me up we have already started a slow descent for DFW.

I report back to duty...DFW is reporting clear skies, warm temps, calm winds, and they're landing South. I ask for and receive a clearance to runway 18R on DFW's West side. The FO makes a nice landing and before long we are parked and running our post flight checklists.

We all shake hands, say goodbye, and head for Customs.

Another successful mission....

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

Saturday, October 3, 2009

London Calling (Part Two)

When we last left off, we were cruising along at FL330 over the Northeast US having our crew meals and preparing for the oceanic crossing. Both the First Officer and I are having steaks. Ice cream will follow!

Tonight we are operating one of the newer 767's that is equipped with SatCom datalink capability. That means less work for the cockpit crew. Typically we have to request an oceanic clearance from ATC via voice call and then once received and out of radar control we have to make regular position reports all across the North Atlantic until almost reaching landfall. These reports are usually made on HF radio frequencies which are a pain to use at best.

But tonight the datalink will do all the work for us. All we have to do is plot our course along a plotting chart and generally monitor our progress....fuel checks and times over waypoints, etc.

Approaching Albany it is time for my break. Tonight's break will be 2 hours and 30 minutes long. The break times are computed so as to be equal for all three pilots and for all three of us to be in the cockpit for the last 30 minutes of the flight.

The Relief pilot will now take my seat while I go for my rest break. Our enroute alternates tonight are Gander, Keflavik, and Shannon. Gander comes first and then once we pass a certain mileage from Gander, Keflavik will be primary, then finally Shannon will be primary. I brief the guys to wake me up if anything goes wrong, and we'll formulate a plan of action depending on the problem at hand.

Seems like I have just fallen asleep when the Purser wakes me up to tell me that break time is over. It is now the First Officers turn to rest. So back to the cockpit for the rest of flight I go.

Entering the cockpit I see that it's getting light in the East. My watch says it's 1 AM in Dallas. The two guys did a good job during my absence...they have climbed us up to FL360, we are still pointed East, we're on course, on time, fuel remaining is right on, and all is well.

The First Officer has left and now the Relief pilot has moved over to occupy his seat.

Three hours to go...we will soon be calling Shannon Control on VHF and will be under radar contact. The sun is rising.

One hour to go...the cockpit chime rings again. Time for breakfast!! Seems like all we do is eat. Steak and eggs or cereal is the choice.

Pressing on, the GPWS overlay on the nav display is showing land ahead!! It's Ireland. We pass over the coastline, the city of Cork will follow, then a short overwater stretch again before reaching the English coast.

We're now talking to London Control. No delays are expected for Heathrow. They ask us to keep our speed up...we are number one. We are now descending, the First Officer has returned, it's getting a little busy. The ATIS is reporting scattered clouds, good visibility, 15 degrees Celsius (59F), calm winds and runway 9 Left in use at LHR.

I make a goodbye PA to the passengers as we descend over the cities of Cardiff and Bristol. The three of us do a quick briefing of the arrival and approach procedures and what we'll do in the event of a missed approach.

15 minutes prior to landing I make the "Flight Attendants prepare for landing" PA.

We are handed off to Heathrow Approach Control..."expect vectors for a visual approach to runway 9 Left". We call the runway in sight at about 10 miles. Time to slow down and get dirty.

Landing weight will be 283,000 lbs with a Vref speed of 136 knots. I call for flaps 1, then 5. We're handed off to Heathrow Tower and given our landing clearance. Flaps 15, then gear down followed by flaps 20. The gear is verified down with three green lights. Autospoilers armed...flaps 25...flaps 30. At 1000 feet we crosscheck our instruments, "before landing" checklist is complete, landing lights are on, the localizer is centered as is the glide slope, we're on speed and configured for landing. The automated radar altimeter voice callouts are all we'll hear until touchdown. 500ft...100...50...40...30...20...10.

I make a nice landing, the autospoliers deploy, reversers deployed....we are decelerating nicely. At 100 knots I begin 80 knots I stow the reversers, we make the high speed turnoff at taxi speed...Tower says to call Ground Control.

"Cleared to your gate" says Ground.

It is now 4 AM on my watch. It's nice to be in the "Mother Country".

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