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

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Need help...

Justin at Gadling wants to have a Q&A section where I would answer any questions that people ask every week. So I'd like to ask you to help me come up with a name. Any ideas? While you're thinking about that one, take a look at another post I did this morning regarding an A380 panorama cockpit shot. If you have any ideas, post them in the comments section. Thanks!

Aruba Turn - Three of three this month.

This switch to Gadling has caused me to fall a bit behind. I've just posted about my first trip report over there. It was regarding the 3rd Aruba turn this month. I have to tell you, I'm really not used to actually having to PROOFREAD my stuff. So I went through that first post many times with the help of the Gadling editor to make sure it made sense. I'm happy with the results.

So if you want to read how to park a 757, take a look at the latest Aruba turn post on Gadling.com. And you know I just love it when you comment over there. (I'm starting to sound like Ruthann.)

Monday, January 28, 2008

The big news...

Last week I was approached by the Justin Glow at the travel website Gadling.com about writing a feature for them called "Cockpit Chronicles." They wanted me to essentially write my trip report on their site, which would mean reaching a larger audience.

I've jumped at the chance to do it, but I want to make sure that those who read and contribute here also head over to my Gadling feature as well. They've got a really slick site that is very frequently updated (practically every hour). But if you just want to go to the "Cockpit Chronicles" section, here's a link: www.cockpitchronicles.com

My plan is to introduce a post that I left over there with a few added details that I might not want to include on the gadling site as they might be a little too aviation geeky, if you know what I mean. So you can still come here and leave comments as well if you think they're more appropriate here. But I'd love to see lots of comments on the Gadling posts!

Thanks for giving me the motivation to keep this blog going. I hope I can post even more often as a result of this move.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Update: Lots coming next week...

I've been flying my rear end off this past week. I'll have those trip reports plus some big news next week for you. Check back then. Sorry for the delay, I'm just beat.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Aruba Turn - Two of three this month.

After a couple of days off, it was time for another Aruba turn, and once again I was able to fly with a good friend. While I really like almost all of the Boston pilots, it's the ones that you get together with outside of work that I really consider friends, and Dave fits that category. You might remember Captain Dave B. as the one who wasn't thrilled to be packed into a subway with me on a previous Paris trip just so I could show him where there was a great toilet and a place to buy a beer across the city. But I always have the best conversations with Dave and we really enjoy flying together anytime we get the chance.

In addition to flying with Dave, I was able to fly with a co-pilot who would be my FB today that I've never met before. Kim W. is a really nice and funny FO that came over to the 767 when the Airbus A300 was no longer flown out of Boston. We inherited a number of those pilots and they all seem to be great people to fly with.

I was pretty sure this trip would go just like the last one. Boring, in a sense, other than being able to visit with Dave. Funny how things change when you least expect it.

We decided to let Kim take a break all the way down to Aruba and then Dave and I would split the breaks coming home. So Kim stayed in first class all the way down.

Here she is working hard:

So the flight down was almost completely uneventful. I shot this picture of Dave just after he sat down with his meal. There was just one problem with the lunch. No silverware. Dave has yet to realize this in this shot.

One problem...

I like this shot of Dave. Needless to say, he's flown with me before.

Dave and I.

When we showed up in Aruba, the agent came into the cockpit and told us that the flight home had cancelled. We thought he was kidding. Soon it became obvious that he wasn't joking. Since Boston was going to be seeing a significant amount of snow the next day, the company didn't want to have a bunch of airplanes stuck there for the day.

We gathered up our stuff and met an awaiting bus to take us to our layover hotel. Everyone was pretty excited to get an Aruba layover. I've been flying to Aruba for 6 years now and I've never had a layover there.

Kim, Dave and I met up with two of the flight attendants for dinner on a pier just down the beach. Unfortunately I forgot my camera, but these iPhone pictures give you an idea of the scene on the way to dinner. The sunset was fantastic. You'll have to take my word for it, I suppose.

iPhone pic of the beach in Aruba

The plan was to deadhead home via Miami the next morning, to arrive in Boston just as the snow started to let up. I had another dental appointment that I missed, but the Aruba layover was certainly worth it. Although, really, most people would rather do anything than go to a dentist, I suppose. But I did have a good excuse.

I wasn't too sure that we would get out of Miami with the snow falling so hard in Boston that morning. I told Linda that if the company were to lay us over in Miami on Monday night that I would just go to Macworld straight from Miami. The other pilot I'm going to Macworld with just happened to be flying the flight from Miami to San Francisco, so that would work out perfectly, I thought.

Well, that might have been the wrong thing to say to your wife who's at home in a foot of snow with two kids and a driveway that isn't plowed. I realized that I would at least have to get home and dig them out of the snow before going to SF.

I really shouldn't have said anything to her about that contingency, since we made it out of Miami without any problems. In fact, I'm writing this from seat 18B, a center seat in coach, while Dave and Kim are riding up in the cockpit where there's actually more room. At least this has given me some time to catch up on some of these trip reports. When I got home, Linda had slipped on the ice and locked herself out of the house. She wasn't too excited about me being gone for so long with her back pain, so I elected to pass on Macworld. I felt bad for Mike and Rich, but as the saying goes "Happy wife, Happy life." There's always next year. Plus I was able to watch the Steve Jobs keynote presentation which really is the highlight.

I've been getting a bunch of great questions either emailed to me or in the comments section of this blog, and while I have a moment, I thought I'd answer them publicly.

Regarding the daytime transatlantic flying... Yes, almost all flights leave in the afternoon and evening and come back in the morning to keep the flow of traffic going in the same direction across the Atlantic. There are usually about 8 "tracks" or parallel routes across the pond 60 miles apart that make up the North Atlantic Track System (NATS). Your position and altitude along those tracks are strictly controlled and you must reach each waypoint within 3 minutes or you'll need to update your position report to ATC via HF radio (at least for us low tech 757/767's-newer airplanes report these points automatically).

There are a few flights that fly the opposite direction or during the off times in between the rush. They must fly on what is known as a random route. This is done by either flying below 290 or by flying completely around the track system. There's very little traffic out there during these off times such as our daytime London flight. If you're ever flying from the U.S. to Europe, I highly recommend these flights. You'll get to London far more refreshed than if you went overnight. You will lose a day, but at least you'll be awake when you get there. Not only that, but the flights are usually less crowded.

Another question from Mike S. was regarding the breaks we take when we have a relief pilot. I touched on that a little bit above and in other posts but not in great detail. Any flight schedule over 8 hours in one day needs a relief pilot. It's up to the captain to decide how the breaks will happen, but for the most part the whole crew comes up with a plan and it's often the same each time. We usually just divide the flying time into thirds, not including the first and last half hour when we're taking off and landing. It's usually the FB (first officer-B or relief pilot) that takes the first break. That is a less popular break since the flight attendants are serving meals at that time and there's a lot of activity in the cabin. Our rest seat is in the aft left of first class (757) or in the front right of business class (767). There's no longer a first class in the 767.

The pilot flying-which can be the captain or the co-pilot-takes the second break since it's really no fun to come up to the cockpit 30 minutes before your landing to figure out what's going on after sleeping in the back. It's the non-flying pilot that gets this third break.

I usually sleep only if I really am tired during these breaks. Otherwise I might blog or listen to or watch a podcast on the iPhone. I've found that even if you don't sleep, you're still more rested when you get back up to the cockpit. Sometimes I just feel too groggy if I've slept the entire time. Typically the Europe trips have a 2 hour break and the Aruba turn has an hour each way.

I'll be back after the third AUA turn of the month and then we'll finish off with two London trips. Can't wait.

Aruba Turn - One of three this month.

This month I'm either scheduled to fly the 2 and 3 day London trips or the one day (turn) to Aruba. As I've said last month there probably isn't a more productive trip in the system than the Boston to Aruba turn. It's worth 9 hours and 30 minutes of flying time. That's almost equivalent to a two day trip, and it's not much less than the 12:20 Shannon 3 day trips we used to do. For this long day, we had an FB (relief pilot) who was my good friend Rich Girard. Along with running the Boston marathon and traveling to every exotic location he and his wife can find, Rich is a serious Mac user. So we tend to 'geek out' a little when flying together. In fact, we were planning on meeting up in San Francisco for the Macworld conference there on the 15th of January.

Our captain was Jim I. who tends to be a quiet sort with a dry sense of humor. In all it was an entirely average trip. No issues or passenger problems at all and we were on time on the way down and early coming home. The only interesting pictures I managed were of Rich doing the walk around inspection which is usually the FB's job That left me with nothing more to do than to take pictures while on the ground.

So here are the three best pictures from today's flying:

My buddy Rich

Rich and I in Aruba

767-300 pushing back from Aruba

Monday, January 14, 2008

Then and now... some perspective.

Someone just sent me a YouTube video from a special the History Channel did called "Big Alaska." The segment covered the role of the bush pilot in the state. When I think about how far aviation has come in such a short time, I only need to look at the flying my grandpa, Noel Wien, did in the early 20's until after WWII. He started Alaska's first airline, Wien Air Alaska, inspired not by money, but the hope of a steady job flying, which was all he wanted to do. Wien Air Alaska flew for over 60 years before folding at the hands of a corporate raider.

So when I really start to think going through security is overwhelming, or finding a place to stow my bag on a deadhead is too much of a pain, or there isn't a hot meal on the 3 hour flight, I just think of how the pilots and passengers of that era got around. Heating the oil over a stove before putting it back into the engine at a cabin somewhere on a frozen lake seems a bit more challenging than finding an agent to connect the jetbridge to the airplane in the morning. Even the flying my dad did in the 50's and 60's makes me feel like we've really come a long way. I look up to my dad probably as much as he looked up to his dad.

Take a look at the video. Some of the footage was stuff I had never seen before. All of the still photos came from my grandpa's collection that I've been working on digitizing though. The man in the hat during the interview is my uncle, Richard. The part about my grandpa is from 1 minute in to the 3 minute mark, plus a little at the end. There was a biography written about him if you're so inclined to read about the early days of bush flying. OK, 'nuff said about my family. Back to the trip reports!

Friday, January 11, 2008

2 Day London - "A trip I could retire on..."

I think I've just found the holy grail of trips. I love flying to Europe, but there's always a price to pay in terms of jet lag, especially during the layover. Seeing the sights is always fun, but you do feel like you're in a bit of a fog since you've just flown all that way overnight and then took a 4 hour nap before heading into town. So Paris, Manchester and the our previous Shannon were all scheduled this way.

When I first started flying the 767 in late 2001, we had a London trip for a short time. I managed to get a few of those trips and I really tried to make the most of them. We were all sad to see the London trips go when the 777 picked them up out of Boston. I had a chance to fly one more of these trips in January of 2005 when I had a brief stint as a 777 FO out of NY.

So we were really thrilled to learn that for a period of 4 months this winter we would be getting the 'two day' London trip. This is the trip that goes extremely senior on the 777 when pilots bid for their monthly choices.

I was even more excited to get a few of these trip for the month of January. But this trip wouldn't be like the other trans-atlantic flights. Instead of departing around 7 in the evening, we left Boston at 9 a.m. for London. After you get to the hotel in London sometime around 10 p.m., you're only goal is to stay awake until about 10 p.m. east coast time, another 5 hours. We got together for dinner at an Italian restaurant before heading to the hotel bar to watch the last part of the San Diego playoff game.

The next morning I had a choice, either sleep until the normal wake-up time or go out for some breakfast and sight seeing. You guessed it, sleep won. I chose to wake up just a few hours from our pickup time at the hotel which was about 7 a.m. Boston time.

It wasn't until taxiing out from London that I realized why I would bid these trips exclusively if I could. I felt energized compared to a Manchester or Paris trip. Sleep really is critical in this job, needless to say. And even the best intentions can't overcome the time zone differences and flying on the 'back side of the clock.'

Yeah, yeah, yeah, so London's a great trip to get, you say. But there are some differences in flying into Heathrow that are worth noting. They do the constant rate of descent approaches that we see in Manchester but they also have a very unique taxi system that I really wish we'd see adopted at other airports. You see, after landing, there are some centerline lights that light up when you call Heathrow ground. They will tell you to "Follow the greens and hold short of Echo 1" or something similar to that. And sure enough, the centerline lights turn green until Echo 1 where a red stop bar shows up. I managed to get a little video clip of us holding on the taxiway for a passing airplane before the lights turned green again for us. Take a look:

The other interesting part is that, even though we're flying a 767 to LHR, we really felt like we're in a 'quaint' little light twin compared to the 747's and 777's. Soon we'll see the A380 there, so we'll really feel tiny. You really get the idea that this is truly THE international airport.

Not much in the way of layover pictures, but I figured I'd share these shots of the view out the hotel window. Not very exciting, but it gives you an idea of how relaxing my layover was.

London hotel window view

View from the London hotel window

But wait! There was at least a little excitement. While surfing in the room, we had a hotel fire alarm that turned out to be a test of the system. Usually we're fast asleep at this point in the day when flying the three day trips, but I was spared the shock of the fire alarm going off while in a dead sleep since this was the two day sequence, and pick up was in an hour or so.

And finally, one other benefit to flying Europe again is that I can fly over Ruthann's house in Ireland so it's a little easier for her to stalk me. She managed to hear us depart from Boston, talk to Shannon overhead and pick up our ACARS messages (text messages to the company essentially). On the way back I was sure to request the weather for ROC (Rochester, NY) via the ACARS since those were her initials and I knew she'd be 'intercepting' the message. I even had a one way conversation with her. So who's stalking who? Yeah, I know. But hopefully she'll be working at the Shannon ATC facility someday. At least that would make it a two way conversation. Here are the pictures from her computer of our ACARS requests and our ATC track.

Off for a couple of days before doing a few Aruba turns. Then it's off to the annual pilgrimage to Macworld in San Francisco! Of course, I'll bring you along.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Well, I had hoped to be able to write about my three day trip to Panama City, Panama and Caracas, Venezuela but my front teeth have prevented that.  You see, instead of celebrating New Years in Panama, I had to take care of an infected root canal that flared up on the 30th.  I'm trying to get everything fixed up so I can go on my London trip on the 6th.  I haven't flown to London in 5 years, so I really don't want to miss that trip.  Talk to you then...

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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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