Thursday, June 7, 2012

Aborted takeoff, 3 reroutes and a spiraling descent to avoid terrain...all on day one

The title says it all. Day one of a three day was a ball buster.

I had a 5:45PM departure so I spent the day with my daughter. We hit a new park, did a little shopping and had lunch.

It was supposed to be an easy day with three fairly short legs to a long 18 hour overnight.

When I signed in we were already 15 minutes delayed. Lot of weather issues.

Initially we were waiting for the inbound plane...then they assigned a new plane.

Preflight in the rain. I settled in to my seat and fired up the APU. After reviewing the aircraft logbook I noticed a MEL for an anti-ice issue. With all the weather around it would be difficult, it not impossible to avoid the freezing layer and clouds.

Sure enough my co-pilot came down...we'd been swapped to a different aircraft.

I shut the plane down and packed up.

Another preflight in the rain. I noticed the cargo compartment was full of bags...for another flight. They would later be removed and the bags for my flight loaded.

Delayed more. The previous 2 flights cancelled due to weather. Waiting area was full of grumpy passengers.

Finally pushed out at 7:13PM. My co-pilot raised the nose into the air at 7:23PM. Upon contacting departure we were given a reroute...a 180 NM out of the way reroute.

At 8:40PM we were back on the ground at the out station. Lot of delayed passengers here as well. Fairly quick 27 minute turn and we were being pushed out again.

My turn to fly.

This out station has 5 runways...and they all intersect with one another.

Being late ground and tower were combined on tower frequency. The controller seemed a bit overwhelmed.

Initially we were told to follow Southwest who was also in the alley. We didn't see Southwest. Southwest finally piped up and said they were BEHIND us and we would have to lead. Fine.

We were assigned runway 13 for takeoff. Runway 5 was being used for arrivals.

Holding short. Finally cleared for takeoff and were advised "a 737 is on a 3 mile final for runway 5". Fine.

My co-pilot steered the plane onto the runway and said ," your aircraft."

I replied, "My aircraft," and pushed the thrust levers forward and said, "Set thrust."

He replied "Thrust set."

I then placed both of my hands on the yoke and looked straight ahead. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the lights from the approaching 737.

Around 60 knots I heard, "Takeoff clearance cancelled!"

My co-pilot idled the engines and said, "My aircraft!"

I pushed the yoke full forward, keyed the mic and said, "Roger aborting takeoff."

Apparently the 737 was much closer than 3 miles when we started the takeoff roll as they came through the intersection just a few seconds after we aborted.

Checklist run and few minutes later we were back holding short.

Cleared for takeoff again with a LEFT turn heading 280. I bugged heading 280. The left was important as the Flight Guidance Computer would show a RIGHT turn as  it was a shorter path at 150 degrees versus a LEFT turn of 210 degrees.

During the climb I called for heading mode and began a turn LEFT even though the Flight Director was indicating a turn to the RIGHT. The Flight Guidance Computer figured out what I wanted and commanded a left turn.

Long way back again....given 2 more reroutes.

Vectored between two weather cells. Not too bad of a ride.

Wind at the hub had picked up. Winds were 110@19G30 with light rain. Landing runway 17.

I eased it onto the runway at 10:45PM....2 hours and 10 minuted lates.

We were supposed to have LEFT for the overnight on leg 3 at 9:10PM.

The ramp was congested. More planes than gates.

Pushed back out for the overnight at 11:50PM. Two hours and 40 minutes lates.

More delays as the line for takeoff was crazy long.

I'd been up since 6AM. I should have been AT the overnight hotel at 11PM. Tired.

We had 1000 pounds of ferry fuel on board. I cruise climbed meaning a shallow climb at a higher than normal rate of speed to make up a little time.

The out station is a small airport surrounded by rising terrain. The tower closed at 9PM.

I discussed the approach and planned for a visual backed up by the ILS. I also discussed the engine out procedure and go around procedure. To make it simple I combined them meaning we would do the same procedure for both.

The center controller wasn't very busy on our frequency. I picked up the town about 90 miles out. Not hard being the only cluster of lights in a sea of darkness.

Fifteen miles out we were still 9000 AGL. He forgot about us. He finally came back and asked if we had the airport. Cleared for the visual.

Now an issue. We could make out high rising terrain against the somewhat lit sky. It was clear and a million as far as visibility. I had to descend 9000 feet to land on the runway...what to do?

I aimed for the final approach fix while descending. I told my copilot I was going to just circle above the FAF while descending, making at least one 360, maybe two. There was a hold depicted on the approach chart at the FAF so I knew if I remained in the protected area I was okay.

After the first pass I was still about 1500 feet higher than the glide slope intercept, one more time around. My MFD had terrain RADAR displayed...a sea of red (meaning terrain higher than the aircraft) and dots of yellow (meaning terrain at or slightly below the aircraft) were all around.

Midway through the second pass I was at glide slope intercept altitude. I stopped the descent and kept the turn.

Rolled out on final. Looked good.

Calm winds. Tired. Flared a little high. Floated a little. Done.

Next issue. No hotel van as it was 1:35AM. I called the hotel...they thought we cancelled and would send a taxi as the shuttle driver went home.

There were no taxis at the airport (very small airport). Fifteen minutes later the hotel shuttle arrived, they "found" someone to drive it.

Very tired. Still a 14 hour overnight. Today is just two legs. Tomorrow is 5 legs. Hopefully the rest of the trip is easier.




  1. Did you fill out a "NASA" report on the near-runway incursion?  Sounds pretty scary...

  2. We have an internal form to fill out for aborted takeoffs. It is most annoying as it voids my motto of "No paperwork, No News"


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