Just one pilot's attempt at taking an interesting picture every trip, often with a story to go with it. Come along for the ride.

For more recent posts, go to my site www.kentwien.com

Sunday, December 30, 2007

SDQ 767 Turn

Unlike any other Boeing airliner, the 767 type rating allows you to fly two surprisingly different airplanes, the 757 and the 767. I would guess that I've flown the 767 in Boston about 10% of the time, mostly on the Paris trips.

This winter we've had more than our usual share of 767 flying with an SDQ turn, a London trip and occasionally on the Barbados trip as well. It's almost a treat to see one on your schedule. Sure enough, when I looked closer at a Santo Domingo turn that had been on my schedule for the past few weeks, I was happy to see that it would be flown with a 767.

767 Cockpit at the SDQ gate

The flight attendants for this trip, including Bunny, hadn't seen a 767 in nearly 10 years. Bunny's son Alex is learning to fly and occasionally drops in on this site. It was amusing to see Bunny jump right in and adapt to the different galley and layout so quickly.

This was also the first time for some of the flight attendants to see the new "Lie Flat" seats that we now have in the business class section of the 767's and 777's. Everyone had to try out the seats in SDQ and the general consensus was that while the seats themselves were flat, your feet were still lower than your head. The entertainment system on these airplanes is pretty slick, though.

I took a few pictures of the cabin with the new seats in business class. I even modeled a pilot on a crew rest break for you:

Lie flat business class seats

Lie flat business class seats

Once again we needed a pair of air carts or "huffers" to start the airplane in Boston and SDQ. These machines are incredibly noisy. Here's what they look like:

External air "Huffer" start carts

Shot this neat picture of an Airbus A300 reflection in the terminal window while I was doing the walk around inspection.

Airbus A300 reflection in SDQ

While taxiing out, I snapped a picture from quite a distance of these classic airliners. From left to right, C-46, DC-6, Convair 440, Lockheed Constellation, DC-3.

Lot's of interesting old airplanes in SDQ

Since we had an FB on this turn, we had the usual 1 hour break on each leg. I'm currently typing this post while on my break on the SDQ leg back to Boston. It's pretty bumpy right now--I'd call it occasional moderate turbulence with some smooth periods in between. It's nice to be in the back while Captain Brad R. and FB Brad L. get us through these bumps.

Brad the FB is currently the number one guy on the FO 767 seniority list. (In comparison, I'm number 34 out of 40). Brad is probably going to be able to hold Captain on the MD-80 or "Super 80" as we like to call it at this airline in a few months. This means the rest of us move up a number. It's always the nice guys who move on, it seems, and he sure fits that catagory. I hope to be in his shoes in 3 or 4 years. Things move excruciatingly slow here compared to other airlines, but it will be worth the wait. The new age 65 may add some time to that number as well, but I suspect we're still going to see a number of pilots retire at 60.

I showed Captain Brad a few tricks to getting the sunset cockpit shots with the Canon SD800is. Almost all of the pictures this year have been with this little camera and I'm still loving it. It's been nice to have a small camera that I can feel safe taking out on layovers with me. But the big feature for cockpit shots is the wider angle lens that it has compared to the other Canon Digital Elphs. Here's an example:

Captain Brad R. from SDQ to Boston

The bumps seem to have stopped and my break is up. Watch out next year for my post on what should be a really fun, and new to me, layover for New Years eve. Thanks again for coming along!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Aruba Turn - "A Jolly Christmas Eve"

A Christmas Eve Aruba Turn - "What could go wrong?"

Aruba turns (one day trips) are a great way to get your time in for the month. At 9 and a half hours, they're about the best turn we have in the system. We're limited to 8 hours with two pilots or 10 scheduled hours with 3 pilots. I was the FB today, having traded a Christmas Barbados trip for this turn on the 24th.

Since the weather was great and the crew was exceptional, I figured, "Hey, what could go wrong?" Never be too confident.

After some issues with an inoperative APU (auxiliary power unit) we managed to get the right equipment at the gate to get out of town. Since an inop APU means we will need pre-conditioned air (heat essentially) at the gate as well as two high pressure air carts to start the airplane. Boston is usually on top of these things and, sure enough, we were just one minute late departing.

Captain Paul M. brought some amazing pastries that looked like they came straight from a Parisian patisserie. Everyone was in a good mood and we were all looking forward to getting home tonight. In fact, we were even looking into leaving Aruba earlier than scheduled since we didn't have many passengers flying with us on Christmas eve.

Maybe that was a bit optimistic. More on that in a moment.

As you may remember, having an FB on the flight means we usually get between one and two hours for a break, depending on the length of the flight. Today we had an hour and 10 minutes each for the breaks and I used most of mine researching a new gadget. I'm considering buying an Ooma, so I was reading all the reviews that I had loaded on the mac. Ooma is a company that sells a box that allows you to make VOIP (voice over internet phone) calls without any monthly fee. The only catch is the $399 purchase price (at least until the end of the year, after that they say it will be going to $599). I love the idea of cutting any ties to the phone company, although I'll still have to pay Comcast for my internet service, of course. I bring this up mostly to hear if anyone has any experience with Ooma. I have two VOIP phone lines right now and I'm happy with the quality for the most part. I'll let you know if I cut the cord and go with this exclusively. --Update: I ordered the box. It's on the way.

After we landed in Aruba, the airplane would not accept external power. This is a problem since, without an APU, if we shut the engines down without external power the airplane will go dark. The cargo doors won't open and it will get pretty warm in the cabin quickly. After trying three external power carts (ever one they could find on the field) we knew we had to shut down and hope that maintenance could fix the problem. If not, we were in for an Aruba layover, something I would normally have loved, but not on Christmas eve.

We shut down and the passengers got off the dark airplane. Since we had some time while we were waiting for the mechanic to look into the problem, I talked everyone into getting a Christmas Eve picture taken by the airplane on the ramp. Everyone joined in and we had a few laughs getting these pictures:

Crew pose picture in Aruba
Aruba Turn crew on Xmas eve

By the time FO Mike R. and I preflighted the outside of the airplane, the mechanic, John, found the problem. It was a tiny fuse that had burned out down below the cockpit that prevented the airplane from accepting external power. We were set!

Paul M. enroute from Aruba

Just as we began boarding, the 'pre-conditioned air' cart (AC) died. Wouldn't you know it ran out of gas. The temperature in Aruba was about 82 degrees F (28C) so we really needed to get some air for the passengers. I also went down to mention that we would need to 'huffer' carts (high pressure air) to start the engines as well. They managed to find only one huffer cart. That was enough air to pwer up the packs and get the passenger cabin cooled, but it wasn't enough to get the engine started. After a short delay, we had a second air cart hooked up and we were ready to go.

Holding in position
Paul M. enroute from Aruba

I really figured this trip would go smoothly. They usually do, really. As any frequent reader here knows, I've been on a roll this year, maintenance wise. But just when you least expect it, usually when you need to get home the most (remember the Superbowl trip 11 months ago?) you'll have one of these days. Amazingly, we made it home just 5 minutes later than our scheduled time. Just in time to get home and put some presents under the tree.

Love the lighting on this one
Arriving in Boston on Christmas eve

New Years should be interesting this year and I'll have a detailed post about that sometime next year. So check that out next week. I figured I'd give myself one year of blogging about each trip and then I'd decide whether or not I'd keep going. It's been a fun way to 'log' the flights and people i've come across along the way, so I intend to keep up the pictures and posts. Thanks for checking in here and posting the great comments. If you keep it up, I'll keep it up.

Talk to you next year, and have a great Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Barbados Misconnect "Blogging in Miami"

Well, the fourth snow of the month finally caught up to me. Here's a shot of the drive to work from New Hampshire to Boston:

The drive to work (taken with an iPhone)

We were to leave again in the afternoon for one leg to Miami and then another leg to Barbados. The arriving airplane landed about 15 minutes late and then an MD-80 had pushed from the gate and was being de-iced and anti-iced. This process can take a bit of time and so our airplane didn't make it to the gate for another hour.

Jeblue had cancelled a flight to Cancun, so 50 passengers came over to AA after buying last minute tickets. Apparently Jetblue was not required to book them on AA it seems since it was a weather related problem. I chatted with some of the passengers and told them that they had a pretty good chance that the Cancun leg would be held for them since there were so many on our flight.

Even though we were over 2 hours late getting to Miami, they somehow held their connecting flight for the Cancun passengers. Vacation saved!

The plane arrives!

Snow and slush

We did the two part spray as well (type II and type IV), which is a big part of the delay. Here you can see the lovely view we get after the spraying process. Makes it tough to get any pictures.

De-Ice Truck

I'll be flying Christmas eve, but I doubt I'll post anything for a while after that. Have a great Christmas everyone!

Barbados 3 day "The calm during the storm"

Everyone was talking about the big Noreaster we'd be getting in Boston. Snow and later freezing rain, it was going to be ugly on Sunday the 16th. Lucky for us, we'd be leaving on the 15th for Miami and then Barbados, where we'd relax on Sunday before flying back on Monday. Don't you love it when the timing just works out perfectly? I did feel bad for my wife who was snow blowing the driveway while I was away. Fortunately my neighbor came out to help her finish up.

Well this Noreaster didn't disappoint. We got dumped on. 10 inches of snow, on top of the 4 or 5 that we already had. It did rain a bit at the end which put a glassy layer of ice on top of the snow. It made for some good backyard sledding though.

I got the updates from my phone while sitting in a sports bar with my Captain, Phil B., and watching the Patriots win again. We sent everyone pictures of our 'plight.'

Swim for a beer?
Barbados (taken with an iPhone)

Flying back, here's Barbados while we were climbing above 10,000 feet.

The island of Barbados

Here's Miami snapped from the observer's seat.

City of Miami with Miami beach in the background

This device also tells you if you're left or right of the centerline taxiing in and when to slow down and stop.  It even checks for obstacles on the ramp. Flight number, destination, aircraft number, departure time and minutes to departure shown.

Self parking gate system in Miami

But what's this? Yet more snow in the forecast on my next Barbados trip it would seem. Next time maybe we wouldn't get so lucky.  Or maybe we would.  Stay tuned.

Saint Thomas Turn "Snow, sand, snow"

Going to work on December 13th, I KNEW that our trip down to Saint Thomas (STT) and back that day would be interrupted. I packed my bag with the knowledge that we'd be staying on the island overnight.

It wasn't because of the weather we were seeing prior to departing Boston. In fact, it seemed like a normal overcast day there. But the reports were of 6 to 10 inches of snow starting about an hour after we left in the morning. By the time we got down to Saint Thomas, the computer showed more than half of the flights in and out of Boston were cancelled. I was digging through my bag for the sunscreen. While we waited, the flight attendants offered us some cookies. Needless to say, we didn't eat them all:

At least we had cookies

Somehow, our flight was still planned to go back to Boston. It all hinges on whether or not the Logan airport could keep up with plowing the runways and keeping them open. Since this was one of the first snow storms of the year, and the largest by far up to that point, I was still thinking we would be lounging at the beach while everyone up north had to dig their cars out of the snow and fight the afternoon rush hour traffic. But we wouldn't be spared.

Captain Paul M. and I both came to life on this trip. It certainly broke up the monotony of the normal, on time trips we usually fly. Instead, we were curious what would happen next. Would we cancel in Saint Thomas? Divert into Washington Dulles or maybe Norfolk, VA?

Off and on while flying north we heard reports that the airport was open, then closed, then open again. Finally we were on the Boston Approach Control frequency. We asked about the delays getting in and they told us that there would be no delay for us at all. They had just opened runway 4 right again and we were cleared for the approach.

We mad an 'autoland' which is required when the visibility is as low as it was for us. That went without a hitch and we taxied in slowly since the snow covered the runway turnoff points and some of the signs. I let the tower know that we had a loss of 10 knots of airspeed while on final approach at about 1000 feet so they could pass that along to the airplanes behind us, as well as our braking action which we thought was "Fair."

Ruthann told me later that she was listening to the Boston frequencies at www.liveatc.net and after our arrival, only one more flight made it in before the runway was closed again. This caused quite a debate on the radio, mainly from some JetBlue pilots, since they had just finished de-icing and now the airport was closed again. They would have to start the process all over again when it opened up again. We weren't paying too much attention to them, as we would have to avoid an outbound United flight that was in our way.

United we wait

We both thought we were SO lucky to be coming in and not going out. You see, one of the biggest concerns for pilots during these snow days hinges on our outbound flight canceling. If that happens, then we don't get paid for that trip, which can mean a loss of up to a quarter of your monthly pay. Bidding reserve, where you're guaranteed at least 73 hours starts to look like a good idea in December and January.

Approaching the gate, we saw where all the snow is taken. A huge machine that melts it by the truckload and puts out a huge plume of black smoke. The melted snow then goes down through a drain and out to the ocean.

I call it "Fried Snow."

Snow Fryer at the Logan Airport

When we got to the gate, I first took a picture outside the airplane. According to the time stamp on my camera, this was 20 minutes after we landed.

Snow day on the Boston Ramp

At the top of the jetbridge, I looked back and saw Paul still gathering up his stuff in the cockpit. Worthy of another picture.

"Won't you guide my sleigh tonight."

We dodged a bullet on this trip. We weren't even late getting in. But there was a 'Noreaster' snowstorm forecasted for my next trip. Stay tuned...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Reassignment Heaven!

On the 10th, I was supposed to fly a two day San Juan trip. But I got a phone call from our crew scheduling 'asking' me if I wanted to fly on the 9th to San Francisco instead. I say 'asking' because if you answer your phone on your days off you can be required to take the trip. But Camille was nice enough to give me the option. I checked with the wife who thought it would work out even better for us and then it dawned on me. This was a San Francisco trip and my very long time friend Mike is a San Francisco based captain. What if Mike was the captain on THIS trip?

I agreed to take the trip and then I ran to the computer and pulled it up:

Yes! I've been waiting to fly with Mike for the past 13 years. It was finally going to happen. 10,000 pilots. Think of the odds on that.  I worked during my furlough for Mike managing his hobby shop in Coppell, Texas.  Here's Mike in this YouTube video at my side when I crashed one of my R/C helis back then. And another video of Mike tormenting his dog with an electric RC plane at his house. So you get the idea. We go back a long time.

Mike's copilot exceeded 30 hours in 7 days, so he was off the trip. I was to fly to SFO and then deadhead back the next afternoon. So the plan was to stay with Mike at his place which is about an hour and a half north of San Francisco in Santa Rosa, CA. Mike also has access to some neat toys to fly, but more on that later.

Glad you could join us!

Mike and Kent's great adventure

I had my video camera with me and so I had to show Mike that gadget. We shot a few scenes in the cockpit, nothing during the sterile period though (below 10,000 feet or while taxiing).

Now for the fun part. Mike has a Citabria that he's really cleaned up nicely. New engine, etc... But he also has access to an RV-8, a Diamond DA-20 Eclipse and a Columbia 400. So the question is, which one do we take out to fly the next morning? We only had about an hour, so it could really just be one of the airplanes.


Since I've already flown an RV-8 and a Citabria, and since I like airplanes that are at least in the realm of potential ownership on my part, I chose the Diamond DA-20 over the Columbia to fly. The fuel costs would be about 1/4 as well.

The Diamond has become popular with flight schools in both the Rotax and Continental powered versions. Maybe some of you guys out there are flying one? If so, consider yourselves lucky. This is SO much nicer to fly than the 152 that most of us learned in. It's smooth, quiet(er), fast, it has a stick, has great visibility, it's clean, efficient, and even sexy!

Diamond DA-20 Panel

I think any airline pilot type who hasn't flown any small airplanes for a long time would be really comfortable in this airplane. It's feels closer to the jet than it does to a Cessna 152. It even has TIS, Garmin's traffic alerting system. That'll make 'em comfortable. (It's hard to give up some of the features you're used to at work)

So naturally we had to film the .6 hour flight. Here's a version on that looks much nicer than YouTube, but if you have problems viewing it, go to the YouTube version below.

Next up, two trips during two northeast snow storms! Stay tuned.

Oh, and thanks Mike and Gretchen for such a great time!

-Tsurugi boy...

Friday, December 14, 2007

San Juan Turn "Don't run over that DC-3"

This would have been a completely uneventful San Juan turn worth nearly 8 hours if it hadn't been for a controller who was really trying to get the most out of the system.

We were number three on final for runway 8 in SJU.  They had us slow up to a surprising 150 knots when we were still nearly 10 miles out.  That's about as close to hover mode as we ever get when we're that far out.  There was a DC-3 on short final and another jet of some sort behind him, maybe 2 miles or so.  When the controller realized that the jet was overtaking the DC-3 far quicker than he planned, he had the DC-3 go around.  Usually the jet would have been the one to go around, but I think the controller thought he could keep the DC-3 in a tight pattern for a landing IN FRONT of us. 

Sure enough, he told the DC-3 that he was now number one to land after the jet touched down.  This DC-3 was still on the downwind leg and I just wasn't sure this was going to work out, but I knew it would be fun to watch.  When the DC-3 was on final, we were only 2 miles behind him and 600 feet above.  This was as close as I'd ever seen planes packed on final.  The captain was flying, and I told him that if I had to guess right now, I'd say there is no way this is going to work.  We were both ready for the go around.  It's at this point that you run through the call outs in your head.  "Go around, Flaps 20, positive rate, gear up, set missed approach altitude, heading select, runway heading," etc.  We were at 135 knots and the Diesel 3 was at 90 I'm sure.  As we approached 100 feet above the runway, the controller told us that we were cleared to land after the DC-3 turned off the runway, which he was just in the process of doing.  As we went through 50 feet, the DC-3 was clear of the runway and we were now cleared to land.  There wasn't anything unsafe about it, as the DC-3 was probably 4000 feet down the runway (almost a mile) but legally we can't touch down until he was clear.  It's not really that easy to come around that fast and land with a quick turnoff in the Douglas.  But those guys who fly for Four Star out of San Juan really know what they're doing.  

I really wish I could have shared a picture of the view out the front with you, but it was during the sterile cockpit period, so I didn't have the camera.  In fact, about all I can come up with is this reflection of our airplane at the terminal while we sat at the gate:

I'll try to post up my last two really fun trips over the next few days. Lots of great blogworthy stuff to talk about.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

SJU/EWR "The Amazing Race"

After writing about each of my trips for the last year, I'm starting to realize that, even though we might fly to the same places at the same time of year over and over again, these trips are always unique. Something usually happens that set one trip apart from another. And I'm not just talking about a mechanical issue or bad weather, but more about the people you meet or the conversations you have along the way.

This 3 day, 21 hour San Juan/Newark trip wasn't much like the trip two weeks earlier where I met up with my sister. I flew with Captain Kevin K. who is extremely easy going and fun to chat with, and I ran into a reality T.V. 'celebrity' which made my day.

But let me share this trip, as I usually do, using pictures. The first picture is from San Juan while we were holding short of runway 8. Since this puts the runway on my side of the airplane, and the lines can be long at times, it presents a perfect perch for a picture or two. I heard AA 1065 over the radio on landing and immediately recognized the voice as Captain Ellen's from the Aruba who I flew with on Thanksgiving. The FO I flew with for that turn, Bill K., was again flying with her this week. So I took this picture of them which I plan on emailing them.

While going through security, for some reason San Juan had only one lane open for the entire terminal. I was patiently waiting in line when I noticed an Eagle co-pilot behind me. I recognized him immediately from a reality T.V. show we have in the states called "The Amazing Race." Nicolas is racing with his grandfather and they are doing a great job so far. He mentioned that the next nights episode would be a good one, and it was, although I can imagine that any leg of the race where you aren't in last place would be considered a good one. They finished 3rd or 4th that day. I have to say, Linda and I enjoy this show because it gives you a great look at so many different countries and personalities. The race is often won or lost as a result of how the contestants secure their airline tickets and that can be entertaining. In one episode, Nicolas was pleading with an Aer Lingus agent and I couldn't help but cringe as I know Aer Lingus agents can be a bit, well, how do I say this nicely... They're, uh, a bit procedurally minded. I asked Nicolas if he felt the editing made him look any different than he did during the race and he felt that he and his grandpa came across exactly as they were. I can attest to the fact that he seems like a nice guy in the show and he certainly was in person. Of course, I had to get a picture since I knew I'd be writing about this. I probably made him late for his trip. Hope I didn't get him fired. Especially if he didn't win the million dollar prize. The Amazing Race airs on Sunday nights on CBS.

Nicolas from the Amazing Race

On the flight to and from Antigua, I managed to get these pictures. Always looking for shots I haven't done before. It's my little challenge.

Another sunset view
Air Stairs in Antigua

Finally, on the third day, Kevin and I were feeling rather talkative since we didn't have to depart at 6 a.m. on this day. Kevin always has some great stories and I think the following might be a good example.

Kevin grew up in a flying family. His dad was an Eastern pilot, and his brother and sister also learned to fly. The family had an Aeronca Champ and when his younger brother (also a captain with us) was ready to solo, a sinister plan was hatched. As is customary on your first solo, the instructor will usually go around the patch with you before hopping out and telling you to 'giver 'er a go. Kevin's family knew this would be the day for the younger Kris. So when the instructor gave Kris the nod and hopped out to watch him make his first flight, Kris taxied down to the end of the Hampton airport where his dad was waiting. Kris got out and his dad hopped into the seat where Kris had been sitting. Kris's dad is of course an accomplished pilot, and he proceeded to take off and perform an award winning drunk farmer routine that used to be popular at airshows. The airplane took off, rotated hard over on it's side in a knife edge fashion, bounced back on to the runway, staggered into the air again, climbing and stalling all the way on the downwind and base legs, and finally came to a rest back on the runway. Kris's mom was watching with the petrified instructor and since she wasn't in on the gag, she too was close to having a heart attack. Their dad landed long on the runway, and Kris swapped places with him and taxied back to the ramp. The only thing they didn't think of was to get the entire flight on video. If they had, this is where I'd put the YouTube link.

At least I have a picture of Kevin telling the story:

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Exeter, New Hampshire, United States
Grew up in Alaska, went to high school and college in Washington State. Commercial pilot since 1990.

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