Our last flight back to Narita’s runway 16R found us landing at sunset with low clouds and gusting winds. That night the weather front passed through the area and cleared out most of the clouds, but kept the winds howling. By 7 am the next morning Narita had switched to runway 34L and FedEx’s flight from Guangzhou was arriving. You already know the rest of that story.
We were told to stand by at the hotel for word on a new departure time for our flight back to the U.S. that had been scheduled for that afternoon. It was initially estimated that the runway would be reopened some time that evening but at about 6 pm that night we were released from our stand-by status and given an estimated departure time of noon the following day. Our crew call came at the promised time the next morning and we made our way to the airport. Our crew had been augmented with another first officer bringing the crew complement to four with the captain and his OE student. As we filled out our flight paperwork another captain walked up and introduced himself to the crew. He was there to administer a line check to me. Oh goody. I passed the age of 60 a while back and part of the new rules that allow me to continue flying until age 65 is a requirement to receive a line check every 6 months. Apparently our company’s training department is is scheduling the age 60 line checks every 4-6 months just to make sure that they don’t get caught not complying with the rules. I looked at the captain I had been flying with on this trip and asked him why he wasn’t administering the line check. If you remember, he was qualified as a check airman during this trip on our flight from Manila to Narita. Our company had another flight leaving Narita which was flying directly back to the check airman’s home base and which was augmented with only one additional pilot. A fourth pilot would make that an easier flight. The check airman called and rearranged his schedule, then left to join the other crew. We were back to semi-normal operations. I still had a line check to complete, but now it was being administered by the captain I had already been flying with for over a week. For the line check I would have to be evaluated making either the take-off or the landing. Since the captain still had an OE student, he wanted me to make the take-off and the new captain to make the landing. That put me in the right seat for the departure.