Around the Pattern

Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

Category: Professional Flying (Page 3 of 23)

Departing EHAM – Photos

Control tower at Amsterdam Schipol Airport.If you have been following along you know that my last trip was to Europe and shuttled in and out of the Amsterdam a few times.. The last leg of the trip was from Amsterdam to Seattle. I had the first break for that leg, so I was in the cockpit jumpseat for the takeoff and until we got to cruise altitude. Then headed for the bunk to get whatever sleep I could manage.

I got my camera out and took a few photos during the long taxi route to the runway and then got a few more on the departure leg once we were safely away from the airport


Once in a while I’ll see an airline livery that I don’t recognize.Airline livery on aircraft tails at Amsterdam Schipol Airport. I took this one while we waited for crossing traffic on the taxiway. The unusual tail marking on the closer of the two aircraft caught my attention. I didn’t get a look at the aircraft fuselage, so I still have no idea which company/country flies the plane.


We were assigned runway 36L at Schiphol – KLM departures while we wait to cross an active runway at Amsterdam Schipol Airport.the runway that is the farthest away from the terminal. Here we are stopped on the parallel taxiway waiting to cross runway 36C – watching the usual stream of KLM departures.


There are several wind turbine farms Wind turbines to the north of Amsterdam Schipol Airport.visible on our departure/arrival route to Schiphol. These are located north of the airport and are visible from the taxiway. They are pretty far from the airport and appear to be huge turbines.


Not far to the north of the airport we pass the Amsterdam Container Port. Amsterdam Container Port north of Schipol Airport.There seemed to be a lot going on the day we left. Either they were really excited that the ship under tow was finally leaving or they were out testing one of the fire boats. You can also see more wind turbines near the center of the photo.

The last shot I took before I headed for the bunk room shows another wind turbine farm – Wind turbines in the North Sea off the Netherlands coast.this one off the Netherlands coast in the North Sea. Seems to me to be a great location for the turbines, giving them unobstructed airflow from virtually any direction.

[As usual, all of these small photos link to larger versions.]

A Challenging End to the Trip

Airbus A-330 takeoff On the final leg of my trip I was in the seat for the last 2/3, having taken the first break. I usually try to take the break that has me sleeping near the right time for my home time zone. Copilots get either the first or last break since the captain will be in the left seat for both the takeoff and the landing.

Our A-330 aircraft configuration currently has the pilot bunk located between the cockpit and the forward galley. That location makes it easy to get to and from the cockpit but its not so good for the first break. That period is when the flight attendants are doing their main cabin service which means, more often than not, that they will be banging galley carts into the bunk room wall. That in itself is bad enough, but the bed folds down from and is firmly hinged to that wall. I have had a cart hit the wall so hard that I bounced  up off the bed.

There is a project underway to change the aircraft configuration to relocate the pilot bunk in ‘the basement’  between the cargo compartments, across from where the flight attendant bunk is now located. That will provide room for a second pilot bunk and allow the double crew that is required for flights exceeding 12 hours – which explains why the company is willing to spend the money for the change. So much for the security aspects of the relief pilots being half way back in the plane.

The flying part of the leg was enjoyable and challenging. Our route took us as far as 67 degrees north. For most of the flight it was night time off the right wing with a full moon in view while off the left wing the sun was just below the horizon. As we got to north-central Canada and started turning south we eventually came to the point where the sun became fully visible.

The A-330, as all FMS-equipped aircraft, computes and displays a point where a descent should begin in order to meet and restrictions that are present in the instrument arrival procedure for the destination airport. Our arrival had a crossing restriction at one point of 12,000 ft at 250 knots. The FMS assumes that you will make an idle power descent at 290 knots and uses the forecast winds to work backward to our cruising altitude of FL410.  At that point the FMS places a little downward pointing arrow to tell you to get the descent started. The Airbus will not initiate the descent by itself.

It was my turn to get an approach and landing, so as we approached that down arrow I asked the captain to request a lower altitude. Of course the ATC response was Standby. Just as we got to the descent point we were given  descend to FL390, expect lower in 50 miles. Getting behind in the descent at altitude is certainly not unusual and, in most cases is easily recoverable. The FMS calculation does not take into account using the speedbrakes for added drag and a greater descent rate. Also, unless you have an additional restriction from ATC you can always increase your speed, which at idle power means a steeper descent. One of the pages on the FMS display gives a calculation of how far off the calculated descent path you have deviated. By the time we were given a descent directly to that 12,000 foot restriction we were over 5000′ above the calculated profile. Idle power, full speedbrakes and holding 320 knots got us to the altitude and slowing through 270 knots as we crossed the fix. The captain had negotiated the deletion of the speed restriction in anticipation of our not being able to comply – thinking ahead is always good.

Before we started the descent I had briefed the instrument approach that I expected us to be assigned. Our destination has three parallel runways and 99% of the time we get either the right or center runway for landing. I briefed the approaches to both runways to cover myself. Twenty miles from the airport and at 10,000 ft we were were given a descent to 6000′ and a left turn to intercept the localizer for the left runway – of course.  I was half way through the turn when the captain reached to his left to retrieve his Jeppesen manual to get out the new approach plate. During his manipulations he inadvertently hit the autopilot disconnect button. We had chimes and bells galore and all the lights on the autopilot control panel extinguished. It’s really nice that the aircraft is so stable. A half dozen or so button pushes and we were back in business. The captain got the new approach and missed approach procedures programmed into the FMS and we re-accomplished all the required checklists for the new approach. We were then given a speed restriction of 160 knots and a descent to 5500′ as we approached the glidepath. I configured the aircraft for landing and waited for the approach clearance as the glideslope indicator appeared above us again. We were given a descent to 5000′ and still no clearance as we approached the glideslope from below for a third time. That little glideslope symbol came down to meet us and then buried itself on the bottom side of the indicator before we were given clearance for the approach, still restricted to 160 knots until 5-mile final.

This is a totally different way of being behind on a descent. The aircraft was already configured with all the drag it had available except the speedbrakes and we had a speed restriction. Luckily, the Airbus has no restriction on the use of the speedbrakes in the landing configuration, but the incremental amount of drag they would produce would not be enough to allow capturing the glidepath before the approach end of the runway. Our only option was to both extend the speedbrakes and increase our speed. The captain conveyed the message to the approach controller – increased speed or  vectors for another approach. We got the speed – less work for them. A 175 knot, idle-power dive managed to get us onto the glidepath by 1000′ agl with the speedbrakes still extended and our airspeed working its way down to the calculated approach speed. We were finally all stabilized by the required 500′ agl (VFR conditions) when I disconnected the autopilot and landed.  One turn off the runway another turn toward the concourse and two frequency changes and we were pulling into our arrival gate – twenty minutes ahead of schedule after a ten-hour flight.

The flying fun was over, then the commuting fun began. I won’t get into that other than to say that it was more of a zoo than the approach.  Now I have a week off before I start it all over again.

A Layover Lost

I mentioned the last time that I had been having problems sleeping in the European time zone. I guess I reached my limit of sleep deficit on that layover.The hallway alcove to my room. We reached our layover hotel and were checked into our rooms by about  10:30 in the morning. Some of us on the crew said that we would meet in the hotel lobby at 5 pm to go out in search of dinner. I eventually found my room – this is the look of the alcove where my room was located. I won’t go through all the comments I heard from the crew about the decorating motif of the hotel. There’s just not enough room in this column.

I partially unpacked, set my travel alarm for 4 pm, put the alarm clock next to the bed, crawled under the covers and fell asleep. I next woke up at 7:45 that night – never heard the alarm. (Yes, I checked it – the alarm was set and working.) I made some coffee, did a little computer work and headed downstairs for dinner. I was not familiar with the area around the hotel, it was a dark foggy night and I had seen a lot of tagging(graffiti) on the buildings in the area so I elected to just eat in the hotel restaurant. It was a very good meal, though expensive (even with our airline discount). Fifty-dollar meals quickly run through the per diem expense we are paid while out on trips.

That box checked, I went back to my room, checked email again and went back to bed. That produced another 5 hours of sleep and I started to feel human again. Our wake-up call came at 8 am for the flight back to JFK and we were soon in the bus headed back to the airport.

I apologized to the crew for missing the dinner date and found that those of the crew who had managed to wake up at the appointed time spent about an hour walking around the local area looking for a dinner spot. Most of the local restaurants (the hotel included) didn’t open for dinner until after 7 pm.

It was obvious during the drive to the airport that we were going to need a take-off alternate for the departure. The visibility was down at CAT III ILS minimums again. The Milan airport is located in a low area near a river. Go figure. It was a long, interesting taxi to the end of the runway – taxiway signs and holding point markers were slowly appearing out of the fog.

On departure we broke out of the low clouds at about 1500’ AGL into clear blue skies and a beautiful view of the Alps. It wasn’t long after that when I went back to bed again – sounds like that’s all I do. I happened to have the first break for the flight, so once safely on our way I headed for the pilot bunk for a couple of hours.

When I returned to the cockpit we were already over the Atlantic and making our way along our assigned North Atlantic Track (NAT). Luftansa A-330 on the North Atlantic Track system.The tracks are an organized system of routes (which change each day) controlled by Shanwick and Gander Oceanic Controllers. The NATs are like highways between the two continents with specific navigation points that require strict adherence to altitude and speed assignments. This Airbus A-330 was on our track 2000’ below us and apparently restricted to a slower speed than us. In listening to the airline chatter the winds at our altitudes were not different enough to allow us to pass them as quickly as we did. The only deviation to the assigned track that is allowed is what is called a Strategic Lateral Offset (Procedure) – yeah, referred to as a SLOP. We can offset laterally from the assigned track to avoid the wake turbulence generated by the aircraft in front of us. The offsets are always to the right and are restricted to 1 or 2 miles. That is why the Luftansa aircraft was off to our right – probably offset  a mile.

We made landfall again just north of Gander, Newfoundland and turned southwest toward New York.Maine's Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park. As we flew southwest we looked down and saw what looked like an old volcano in the middle of the state of Maine. It turns out that it is not volcanic, it just looks that way. Alpine glaciers carved out the depressions in the mountain, which is located in Baxter state Park. Mt Katahdin is the tallest mountain in Maine reaching 5270 feet about  sea level.

Now its almost time to head east again – this time to Amsterdam for the day/night. We’ll arrive early morning and leave the next morning. I expect I’ll sleep most of the day again.

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