Monday, September 7, 2009

Another milestone done

Snow Leopard (I think of it as Snow Job) has a new feature that will automatically figure out what time zone you're in and set the clock accordingly. This can be very useful for those who travel. Well....

The flight to the overnight was pretty normal. There was one minor restriction on the plane, "Flap Halfspeed". This meant literally that due to a minor mechanical issue the flaps only extended/retracted at half the normal speed. The first time I had this a year or so ago, it through off my timing during the approach. I was a little too far ahead of the aircraft as I waited for the flaps to extend.

With a light load we flew at FL390 to save fuel and get above the bumps.

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The moon was full and bright heading to the east.

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The outstation airport is kinda small. Two runways in the typical North/South and East/West configuration....crossing in the middle.

Descending into the area I was on the radios as pilot not flying while the Captain guided the plane. I heard one other airline in the area, another regional jet. The airport was landing runway 10. We were coming in from the west and figured we would be able fly straight in. The other RJ was coming in from the east. They were about 5 miles north east of the airport  (rough calculation based on my TCAS information). At the same time we were 20 miles out.

The approach controller was being very cautious and advise us "flight 9103 left turn heading 010, vector for sequence, following regional jet, just north of the airport at your 1 o'clock". This caught us off guard...why not just slow us down? Whatever...left turn from heading 100 to heading 050. In the turn the Captain slowed down to avoid having to fly way out. He called for flaps to be extended. The other RJ was turning a base turn when approach told us "flight 9103 further left turn heading 330". Wow. Okay. Halfway through the turn, "flight 9103 right turn heading 130". Interesting.

Once established we clearly saw the anti-collision strobes of the other RJ as well as the airport beacon, and approach lighting system. The controller cleared us for the visual. At the time The RJ was on a 7 mile final. We were still doing 200 knots. Not incredibly fast.

I switched to the tower and said, "Tower, flight 9103 visual runway 10." They came back with, "Flight 9103 cleared to land number two, be advised you are overtaking traffic ahead by 80 knots." What? He's on a 7 mile final and already slowed to approach speed? Wow.

The Captain clicked of the autopilot and began slowing. The plane was at flap 45 and the spacing had been reduced to 5 miles. The tower came back and said spacing looked "good". At many busy airports I am typically just 3-4 miles behind another plane while landing. We could only guess the controllers in the area aren't used to jets coming in so close, even though it's perfectly safe.

During the approach a "lifeguard" helicopter was coming in to land. Apparently he was unfamiliar with the airport. The tower controller kept advising and quiering the pilot to make sure to stay south of runway 10 to avoid landing The pilot sounded a bit confused and the tower ended up holding him off the airport a bit until we landed. Good thing.

The hotel van pulled up just as we stepped up to the curb. Within 30 minutes of landing I was in my awesome hotel room. Too bad it was a short overnight.

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I set my alarm clocks (I set at least 3....I'm never late) and went to bed. Some time during the night my Macbook Pro switched from the correct time zone to the time zone where I am based. When I woke up in the morning I had a bit of confusion. My phone and personal alarm clock said 5:50AM while my laptop said 4:50AM. The Snow Leopard auto time zone function failed. Boo Snow Leopard.

The van time was set for 6:45AM. I was munching down on an awesome breakfast at 6:25AM. This hotel rotates their menu every so often. I was here just a few weeks ago and had an awesome breakfast. This most recent visit was even better.

At 6:45AM we were all in the van. By 6:48AM we were all stepping into the airport. I love short van rides.

The TSA only had one lane open. There was a family of 4 ahead of us including 2 boys around 3-5 years old. The parents were very well versed in going through security. They were faster than most people traveling alone. Word to parents...when traveling with kids...check EVERYTHING except what you need to take care of your kid. It's worth it.

This family breezed through. The father turned around and apologized for going so slow. I told him, "no problem, you guys are way faster than most parents." I then figured they might be non-rever's. Sure enough they were...and on my flight.

We blocked out at 7:35AM...right on time. We were assigned runway 10 with an initial turn to heading 330 and 3000 feet. As the Captain turned onto the runway another airline was announcing they were ready to go runway 18...which crossed our runway. I could see the other plane holding short. I don't like airports where trees or buildings restrict seeing crossing runways.

With takeoff power set we were rocketing down the runway. Just 48 people on board. At 400 feet I began the left turn to heading 330. I love taking off. I love the feeling of power in my hands. VFR takeoffs with headings are one of my favorites. I have time to look outside and enjoy the view. Rounding out the heading the Captain was sent to contact departure. They cleared us to 11,000 feet. I then began calling for flaps to be retracted. Due to class C airspace restrictions I kept the speed at 200 knots (which allowed a for a very high climb rate) until 4 miles away. I used the FMS to simply draw a 4 mile circle around the airport. Easy.

Eventually we were settled in at FL400. Moon was still there....heading westbound.

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The front flight attendant was a very nice lady. She has been a flight attendant (at various airlines) for almost as long as I have been alive. She is absolutely professional and nice. I can never say enough about how nice it is to fly with experienced flight attendants.

About 30 minutes out the Captain sent our ETA to the airline. They then sent back our gate and crew assignments. Since we were all reserve...we were all up for more assignments. When the printer began rolling....only he had an assignment. Of course between now and arrival they could still find stuff for the rest of us.

Descending into the area we were assigned the runway closest to our gate. With FMS/GPS planes fly through the exact same air on air routes. Even though we were more than 10 miles behind the plane ahead, we hit his wake during a turn on the arrival. The smooth flight turned bumpy for a few seconds. Wake turbulence feels very different than turbulence caused by thermals/weather. This wake felt like driving on ice as the plane yawed a bit.....kind of sliding...while bumping around a bit.

I turned final 4 miles behind a 737. Unlike the other airport...nary a word was said. I used the TCAS and my eyes to make sure I was at least 3 miles behind him. Just over 700 feet AGL he cleared the runway. I clicked off the autopilot and then called for my Flight Director to be turned off. Keeping with my new technique I waited till 20 feet for power reduction and flare. The 56,000 pound plane kissed the runway and I smoothly applied reverse thrust. Nice way to officially pass 1500 hours total time.

After pulling into the gate I called and was released. My awesome wife was already at the terminal waiting to pick me up. I had the rest of the day off!

I have airport standby today and reserve tomorrow. My wife and I are planning to go somewhere Friday, September 11. I have yet to fly on September 11. I did visit a 9/11 Memorial a few years ago and took some photos.

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We will never forget.


  1. Congrats on the milestone 1500hrs is big, I also passed my first milestone 50hrs, no where near you yet but I will be there one day.

  2. I tried your new technique on FSX with the default CRJ-700 and on FSX the plane floats for a long time before touching down. I usually have to push the nose down to make her touch.

    Congrats on 1500!


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