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.


Dispatcher said...

Hi Len,

Great post, love the dawn shots!

But come on, you have to admit there is a certain romance to the static HF that you don't get via datalink, especially when you hit 30W and the slight Canadian accent changes to a Irish darlek type voice :)

Ever had a hand off from Shannon to Shanwick yet that ends with, 'Good luck!?'

Len (Barfbag) said...

Hi Dispatcher,

Yes, I have heard the "good luck" comment before. We always have to laugh at that!

I'm not sure if I'd call the radio reception we get from Santa Maria very "romantic", but it does have a certain nostalgia to it!!! Shanwick and Gander are slightly better though.

That whole HF thing is probably reminiscent of radio transmissions from back in the early days of radio. Way before our time I'm sure!


Scheets said...

Hi Len,

I love your blog. Long time reader, but first time poster. Keep it coming!

What happened to the procedure that has each pilot eat a different meal in case of food poisoning? Or was that ever a rule in the first place? Maybe I am watching too much "Airplane!". :-/

Len (Barfbag) said...

Hi Scheets,
Thanks for being a regular reader.
Airplane...great movie! of my favorites.
Yeah I think we still have that "different meal" policy in place but in my many years at this job I have never seen it followed. Nobody seems to care about it too much.

Brian said...

Hey Len,
You do an awesome job with this blog; keep up the great work and the solid writing.

My question to you, then: Are the arrival routes into Heathrow any more or less convoluted than flying into any of the NYC airports?

I seem to remember reading - only because I'm a civilian for cares about this sort of thing - that European arrival routes were more complex than in the US.

Can you speak to this at all?


Len (Barfbag) said...

Hi Brian,

Thanks for the nice comments.

We always seem to get the same arrival routing into LHR. It's probably because we are always coming in from the same direction (West). So I can't really make any comparisons. But the one arrival that we always get assigned is fairly simple. It doesn't have many stepdown fixes and crossing altitudes as do the arrivals into New York.

Conversely, the arrivals and departures from Madrid are way more complicated than anything we have to deal with in the states.

Hope this helps.