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.

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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.

1 comment:

Neil said...

Super report Kent! The way you describe that approach, it is as though I was there - fantastic!

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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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