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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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.

6 comments:

Jamie D said...

Wow, that was a big read. Its a shame you missed Macworld this year, but i guess family comes first. Also, Aruba looks great in that pic from the iPhone! Keep up the great blogging.

B6 F/O said...

I recognize that beach view, we layover at the Westin. It must be within that few mile stretch. I enjoy reading about life at a legacy. Thanks!

neil said...

Great report Kent! Thanks for answering the question on transatlantic flights.

Ruthann said...

Nice! :P

chris said...

Cool beach sunset picture - makes me want to visit Aruba.

In the second photo, the one where Dave hasn't realized his lack of silverware, the throttle handles towards the bottom of the picture are not quite aligned. I only have experience with singles, but is this common in a twin (I'm assuming the throttles are slightly mis-calibrated)?

Kent Wien said...

Good catch Chris.

Just like in a light twin, sometimes to get rid of the 'wow-wow-wow' sound you need to line up the rpm's until you hear the vibration noises go away. It's a bit more difficult in the jet because we're so far up front that it's hard to hear. I can't tell you how many times I've been in the back of an MD-80 and I just wanted to be able to sync up the engines. So yes, to answer your question, there is a little misalignment of the throttles on occasion.

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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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