Thursday, 28 November 2013

Flight deck views

Approach into Lanzarote (suction-mounted GoPro)

100nm CB, our entended track is the magenta line in the bottom right hand corner

777 taking off as we are inbound to land on the same runway (picture taken from the jumpseat)

Paris shortly after sunset

Mount Teide rising to 12,200ft stands well above the strato-cumulus clouds that circle the island of Tenerife (Canaries)

Somewhere in Norway


Madrid by night

Over the Atlantic

The Alps at night. ISO 10,000 and 1.6sec exposure.

Monday, 28 October 2013

This is why we fly

"..sometimes what a pilot sees in a day, people won't see in their lifetimes.."
Amazing Queenstown, New Zealand

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Flying in South California (pictures)

Here are some pictures I took during my last trip to San Diego, CA.
I mostly flew in the area, that is San Diego, the desert to the East, Los Angeles and Catalina Island.
Fortunately I had my camera and tele-lenses with me.
Planning a much bigger plane trip for the upcoming winter.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Good night Amsterdam

Good night Amsterdam (The Netherlands). To the left is Utrecht, in the background right on the shoreline you have The Hague and to the left of it Rotterdam. In the distance, you can probably spot Antwerp (Belgium) and behind it slightly to the left, that would be Brussels but you cannot see it in this photo.

Schiphol airport (AMS/EHAM) is the brightest spot on this photo, right on the middle of the frame, just behind the city slightly to the right. The bright parts being the terminals, you cannot see the runways.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Airline Pilot - Let's flip the coin

(Author unknown)

I think of flying as rather like being in a long-term relationship. There's the initial 'wow' factor of falling in love, followed by a honeymoon period where we regard our new passion with starry-eyed wonderment. This wears off as the costs and aggravations begin to mount, but the love - the reason we got into it in the first place - remains. For some people the downsides are simply too many and too great, and they end up walking away. For those who stick at it, the relationship tends to be permanent.

I got into flying because I had a very comfortable day job which paid the bills but bored me silly, coupled with three hours' commuting to and from London, which I found excruciating. The yen to do something new led me to a trial lesson and I promptly fell in love. Very early on I decided I wanted to fly as a career - the lure of being paid to do my hobby was irresistible.

The trials and tribulations were there from the outset, and are familiar to anyone with a PPL - weather cancellations, financial struggles, frustration at the sheer cost of it all, exams that seem like pointless hoop-jumping exercises. Later on came the stress of commercial training, and the pressure of knowing that simple mistakes could (and did) cost thousands of pounds. After the elation of passing the IR comes the realisation that you are just one of many, many 200hr CPLs, and the struggle to find your first job. It takes some people years - a few will never manage it.

Even when your dream comes true and you have made it to an airline, you'll find plenty of downsides to the job. Life is ruled by your roster, and weekends off are a rare treat. Social events and family gatherings are almost impossible unless arranged months in advance. Five days on and two off sounds alright until you realise that the last day finishes at 22:00 and the first day back starts at 06:00. Arriving at work you are subjected to petty and nonsensical 'security' - you'll be locked in a flightdeck with a crash axe and given control of a 500mph aeroplane, but you'll have to take your shoes off before you get there, and you won't be allowed a can of deodorant for your nightstop.

Every six months you'll be locked in the simulator and have every conceivable failure thrown at you. The man in the back is keeping score, and it's pot luck whether he's a great instructor or someone on an ego trip. The consequences of failure are serious. If you're really unlucky it will all happen at three in the morning, and you'll be expected to be just as sharp as you would be during the day. Get used to it, because it's every six months for the rest of your career.

Line flying is much more relaxed, but even then there's the unspoken and insidious pressure of knowing that a bad day in the office - a single mistake even - could lead to a career interruption or kill people. Potentially hundreds of people. You'll be flying in all kinds of horrible weather, trained and conditioned to do everything on the automatics, then expected to fly competently with a u/s autopilot. You might be flying four or even six sector days, with 25 minute turnrounds, struggling to find time to eat a sandwich or go to the loo. Talking of which, your 'office' is the size of a downstairs toilet, and you'll be locked in it with a colleague who may have nothing in common with you except for the uniform.

The job is unhealthy - sitting inactively for hours on end, eating poor quality food and with high stress levels. You'll get regular colds, and attempting to fly with one can lead to a perforated eardrum. You might be unfortunate enough to breathe in noxious fumes on a regular basis, but don't worry because the engineers wrote 'no fault found' and the airline industry says it's not a problem.

That's enough downsides - I'm starting to depress myself now. The obvious question - if the job is that bad, why do we all still do it? I fly with a couple of captain who are in their sixties and can't possibly need the money - why do they still put themselves through all the grief? For me (and them) it's a simple answer that goes back to the relationship theme. We're in love with flying. Hopelessly, head over heels in love. I love the challenge of a complex and technically demanding job that few others can do. I'm a perfectionist, but I'll never fly the perfect flight - how's that for a lifelong challenge? I've known the drudgery of commuting to a dull-as-dishwater nine to five job, and I hated it with a passion. Not anymore - I look forward to going to work. Hell, I even miss my job when I'm on holiday. No two days are the same, and the view from my office window is different each day, but unfailingly spectacular. Despite all the downsides (and there are many) I can't imagine doing anything else. Most of my colleagues feel the same way, and that includes those captains who got their PPLs while I was in nappies.

Recently I came home from a long and tiring day, switched on the TV and watched a documentary about flying, then fell asleep and dreamed of flying. Once it gets under your skin, you'll never get it out.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

VOR Approach into the Canaries

We've left Morocco on our left when Casablanca ATC calls : “Descend to Flight Level one niner zero and contact Canarias Approach on one two niner decimal three, ma'a salama”.

It is a two-sector and welcomed fifth day at work.
What's more than a long cruise is the opportunity to see all kinds of landscapes along the way, coupled with some very interesting cockpit conversations.
My Captain today is a sharp guy when it comes to flying but he manages to keep the atmosphere nice and relaxed all through the day.
There certainly are Captains I get on with better than others and I'd say he is one of my favorites.
Once in a while, I'll get to fly with a more distant pilot who doesn't talk much.
When you spend up to 12 hours in the same – relatively small – cockpit, you'd better hope your colleague from the left seat will make it an enjoyable day. Truth is, a good day mostly depends on who you're flying with and I speak by experience, it is not always pleasant.

The wind arrow on the Navigation Display is pointing on the nose showing 70 kt headwind and Canarias Approach confirms runway 21 for landing, quite unusual in Lanzarote.
This approach differs a lot from most VOR and NDB approaches and is classified as a circle-to-land. In fact, the final descent is broken down in two parts with a 2nm level segment in between.
As most non-precision approaches, the final course doesn't face the runway and comes to an angle, requiring two turns at low altitude to line up with the asphalt. Because of the irregular ground, no turn is possible until we are three miles from touchdown.
The Captain is flying and I am pilot monitoring, assisting him throughout the whole procedure.
We spent quite a while during the cruise briefing each step and I can feel he is as eager as I am to fly it. He will be at the controls while I take care of the radio, navaids, FMC inputs as well as gear and flaps selection. As this is quite an unusual way to fly a VOR, we agreed that before each step I would sum up the next actions and remind him of the target speed, altitude and track.

We're now routing towards KLATO, the initial approach fix just off the coastline. The sea is quite rough down below, latest winds from the automated weather information at Lanzarote were gusting at 30 kts from the South. Probably not the best day to enjoy some laid-back swimming on the beach despite the warm temperatures.
Nonetheless, the view is beautiful and we can see four out of the seven islands, the much greener Tenerife and Grand Canaria taking shape in the background. Tenerife's volcano Teide is the highest peak on Spanish territories, standing prominently at some 12,200 ft. Lanzarote, first island in the archipelago just 5 miles North of Fuerteventura, has quite an uneven and moon-like landscape although it doesn't exceed 2,200 ft. All its houses are remarkably plain white and contrast with the orange coat that graces the island (interestingly Santa Cruz in the North part of Tenerife is one of the most colorful cities in Europe, worth a visit if you get a chance).

Cleared for the VOR approach runway 21 and reaching KLATO, we intercept the radial 088 inbound to LZR VOR, descending down to 3500 ft, speed reduced to 180 kts with flaps 5.
On my side, I have LTE VOR (located on the airfield) tuned in and it is showing 13 nm when I pull the gear down and select Flaps 15, on Captain’s command.
I can't help but look outside, the scenery looks surreal.
As we come closer to the final track, I switch the captain’s navbox over to LTE VOR and we capture by a left turn the final using LNAV (Lateral Navigation), much more accurate than the VOR mode of the autopilot. 2800 ft is set in the altitude window and down we go at 1000 ft/min.

9.4nm from touchdown, we level off on a two mile segment. The Captain grabs the altitude knob and winds it up to 5000 ft, our Missed Approach Altitude.

8.4nm from touchdown, I select landing flaps and complete the landing checklist. Quick look outside, undoubtedly the view is superb and the vibrant colors add up to that feeling.

7.4nm from touchdown, we commence our final descent towards the runway at a higher than average 3.7° angle.
My eyes are scanning the speed, altitude and DME distance, ready to call out any deviation from the intended parameters.

The approach track is taking us right between two higher spots at around 1000 ft elevation on each side, preventing us from making any turn outside of a 3 nm radius from the airport.
With the sun shining a few degrees above the horizon, the ridges on our left are lit with a truly magnificent golden light. Such an unobstructed sight is overwhelming!

Time to relish, the Captain disconnects the automatics and start a right turn to catch up the runway centerline.
Due to its nature, Lanzarote’s terrain has a rather steep continuous downslope below our flight path and we remain close to the ground during the last two miles before touchdown. We're overcome by a sense of speed as the aircraft is banked low over the ground. Left turn at 500 ft altitude - around 300 ft ground height - as we line up with the runway. I'm always impressed by the manoeuvrability of a 65 ton aircraft flying at 145 knots close to the ground. I can tell the Captain is enjoying it and so am I.

400 ft, we’re stabilized, fully established and cleared to land.

A handful of cars are stopped on the road that surrounds the airport and I can see a few people gathered to watch the 737 as she passes by.
Like us, they drink in the last drop of the sun before it slips beneath the horizon

The radalt's synthetic voice starts to count down our height.
30 gentle pitch up, 
20 thrust levers back to idle, 
10, greased touch-down on the 7800 foot overheated runway.

I call “speedbrakes up”, the autobrake system kicks in and my chest is immediately pushed into the harnesses.
Reverses deployed and engines spooled up to 75% N1, the 737 is shaking down the runway in an intense roar, decelerating to vacate with taxiway E4 to the terminal.

What a beautiful day in the Canaries.

Friday, 22 February 2013

It's all about the Journey, not the Destination

Darren Williams, 20 years of flying experience from ultralights to fighter jets.

Golfcharlie, your youtube videos are just awesome. They inspire those who want to strive for that big jet job, but as they say, "Yes, it's all about the journey......Not the destination". 
A little about me and my journey.
Like many, my dream was to fly a jet airliner. In those days, here in Australia, the path to the airlines was to take general aviation route in its numerous forms. Charter, instructing, crop dusting, the list goes on. You needed 2000 hours plus just to get a job flying PA-31 in those days. In later years, some of my students were getting those same jobs with less than 500 hours. How times have changed.

My first job was flying charter in a Cherokee 6 and Tigermoth joyflights before taking the instructor route. From there progressed to become a very passionate chief pilot and chief flying instructor of a flying school. I also flew adventure flights on the weekends doing aerobatics in ex-military aircraft including jets as well as many other flying experiences like fire spotting during our bushfire season and meat bombing...uh, I mean parachute dropping.

I was fortunate to fly over 40 aircraft types from ultralights through to combat jets, teach 377 people to fly and experience the many wonders and delights that only flying can provide. The only thing I never got to do was to fly that big jet.

My lifelong love affair with nearly 20 years of it flying was ended by a mild stroke which saw me lose my medical. That was nearly 2 years ago which to this very day is still hard to overcome.

In the last couple years of my career, I saw a change in the type of students we had. It went from those who enthusiastically wanted to learn to fly to those who only just wanted to do the bare minimum for the licence. They had no desire to experience other things in aviation and looked down on anything that wasn’t a Cessna with glass or a new piper because it was either inferior to them or that was not going to be any use to them working towards the shiny jet. 

I have no doubt that most wanted to fly but it is sad to see that the majority had no real passion and a lot had a very limited knowledge of aviation outside of a Boeing or Airbus. I ask new CPL holders of today what are their plans for their careers only to get a quick “Cadetship, don’t want to do GA”.
The MPL will only make things worse. No real depth of knowledge or experience, and an over inflated ego to boot. The title of airline pilot will become less prestigious than a bus driver (no offence to bus drivers).

It’s OK to dream of being a captain of a modern jet airliner, but sadly most of today’s pilots don’t want the journey anymore, and have a huge sense of entitlement to the shiny destination.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Life as an Airline Pilot (video)

Part 1. Intro 0:00 to 1:38 , soundtrack: Audiomachine - Redemption
Part 2. City tour (Alicante) 1:39 to 2:30 , soundtrack: Thomas Bergersen - Immortal
Part 3. Flying Scenes 2:31 to 5:40 , same soundtrack (Thomas Bergersen - Immortal)
Part 4. Days Off, flying gliders 5:41 to 7:09 , unknown soundtrack title
Part 5. Flying Scenes 7:10 to 9:37 , soundtrack: Data Romance - Night Section

Rendered with Sony Vegas HD 11.0