Friday, May 06, 2016

Six Months In (Sorta)

Considering my lack of posting you might think that my airline is working me to death, but no, that's not the case. Recently I passed 120 hours on the B757/767...just over six months since I went to class! Keep in mind that I was originally awarded the slot way back in Feb 2015, meaning I'm only nine months away from my seat lock expiring. I'm not planning on going anywhere but it keeps options open.

Basically what happened is that my airline was originally planning on retiring a significant portion of the 7ER fleet, didn't train many new pilots on it for a while, then decided to keep many of the airplanes after all at the same time that a bunch of senior 7ER FOs took captain slots on other fleets. Whoops, big training logjam! It's just now finally clearing.

So here's basically how my training went:

Oct-6Nov15: Home study for 7ER course (we basically teach ourselves the systems on our own time via computer based training, honestly not my favorite way to train).

6Nov15-6Dec15: 7ER Initial training. You may recall from Mad Dog school that we break our initial training into four blocks, numbered 100 to 400, that roughly correspond with systems training, procedures training, maneuvers training, and line-oriented training. These all end in checkrides but the two most important are 34X (Maneuvers Validation) and 44X (Line-Oriented Evaluation). Unlike Mad Dog school, I was paired with an FO rather than a CA, which complicated things a bit in that we each had to learn left-seat duties and got only half the time we otherwise would in the right seat. However, my sim partner (who is only a few numbers senior to me) is an extremely sharp guy, we worked very well together, and we made it through the course without problems. One happy footnote: we weren't stuck in "the schoolhouse" the entire time, our 300-series sims were all down at the Boeing training facility in Miami. We passed our 44X checkrides easily on December 6th and were sent home indefinitely waiting on IOE.

31Jan15-05Feb15: Initial Operating Experience (IOE). I flew with a super-nice Detroit-based Line Check Airman, he was completely understanding that I hadn't been in training for eight weeks and might take a little more time to get spooled up. My very first leg was in a B757-200 and operated from Detroit to Cancun for a 24 hour overnight, a very nice way to kick things off! Our subsequent layovers were in Orlando, Fort Myers, and Atlanta. I ended up flying the B752 for 5 legs, the B753 for 2 legs, and even our GE-powered domestic B767-300 for 2 legs. I liked the legendary power and performance of the B752, but I loved the fingertip-light control feel of the B763 (due to the additional inboard ailerons). You simply think about turning, and she's turning.

29Feb-04Mar: Transoceanic Operating Experience (TOE), 2 crossings of 4 required. There was less time off before this so I didn't have much catchup on the airplane itself, but there's a lot to cover over the course of the first 8-hour crossing (during which I was in the rest seat for 2 hours) and it's all stuff that I'd last covered in mid-December. I crammed to catch up in the days before the TOE, and the LCA was happy with my preparation. We flew one leg from Atlanta to London-Heathrow in the B767-300ER, and after a 18 hour layover flew an ETOPS B757-200 back across to PHL. We even got tagged for a couple domestic legs the next day, the better to increase my landing count. I gotta say, though, I've found all the variants pretty easy to land. It just takes the first few to adjust to the higher sight picture.

06Mar-10Mar: TOE crossings 3 & 4. Only one day off before straight into my 2nd TOE, which was based out of Seattle and consisted of only two legs, SEA-PVG-SEA. This was my first time to China, and I had a really nice 48 hour layover to explore Shanghai. The takeoff out of Seattle, at 407,000 lbs, is my heaviest to date. Like I said the B767 is really light on the controls, so you don't feel that heavy, but acceleration obviously takes longer and you have to be really sharp with your pitch control to avoid overspeeding the flaps while retracting them at the proper speed and keeping the airplane accelerating. On the way over we were in VHF coverage the whole way, flying north via Alaska, the Bering Sea, Russia, and arriving from over Beijing. The Russian and Chinese controllers weren't too hard to understand, but once in China you switch to flying metric altitudes, which is a little different. The weather really stunk in Shanghai when we landed, with a big gusty crosswind, but the rainy runway made for a nice landing. On the way back we flew via Japan and then over the water. Because this is such a long flight, it was a 4-man crew, meaning I spent nearly half of each crossing in the bunk (and these particular B767s actually have bunks - so nice!). Pretty easy work if you can get it.

And that's it, I was released to the line on 10Mar, didn't work again thanks to creative bidding until early April, and have done a few trips since, all domestic. I'm getting pretty comfortable with the airplane - as expected, it's superior to the MadDog in every way possible, but there are also a surprising number of similarities that make for an easy transition. I've been quite busy taking advantage of all the free time for the last six months, and have done the following trips:

mid-October: Interline Regatta, British Virgin Islands.
Christmas/New Years: Dawn and I flew the Pacer from Minnesota to Connecticut and then down to Key West.
early Jan: flew around Florida visiting friends.
mid-Jan: Dawn and I flew the Pacer from Florida to Phoenix.
mid-Feb: Dawn and I flew the Pacer down Baja with our friends Brad and Amber (they rented a 182 out of San Diego). Awesome, epic trip - story is coming out in July issue of Flying.
late-Mar: Went to Thailand to visit my sister and her kids in Chiang Rai, flew down to Phuket, met my parents, chartered a 39' Leopard catamaran for 5 days of sailing the Andaman Sea.
mid-Apr: Dawn and I flew the Pacer up the west coast to Portland, OR.

Besides all that, there are some pretty major developments in my and Dawn's plans, dating back to last August. As a result, we sold our rented-out townhome in Vancouver WA back in February, and just sold our house in Minnesota a few weeks ago. We close on June 7th, and are renting a small apartment in downtown St. Paul for the summer before taking off for "new horizons." Yes, I have some pretty serious catch-up blogging to do.


Dave Starr said...

Great update, Sam, we who sit in the back and relax (sorta) enjoy learning about what goes on upfront really enjoy the time you take to write abut the realities of piloting.

Quite interested in hearing about the 767. I went NRT to SEA on one last September and despite having made many Pacific hops over many year this was my first time ever on a 767. Pretty decent from a pax standpoint, where in the heck have these birds been all these years? They're already old, yet the USAF is getting them as a "new, advanced technology" tankers, LoL.

Quick question )which might delve too deep into company operational data, so feel free to ignore, but what mach number to you flight plan at for Pacific crossings, and how much variance would there normally be. say in pushing up the power a bit due to delayed departures, or slowing down in anticipation of long arrival delays, etc?.

Be well and keep writing.

Sam Weigel said...

Dave-- We've been putting new interiors in many of our older planes, including the 757s and 767s. With the new interior, you can't really tell that they're old. From a pilot standpoint, the 75 & 76 don't seem that old because they were ahead of their time, & many of their features & logic were carried forward to the B764, 777, and 787. There's less automation and integration of systems than later models, but I honestly prefer that (I think I've beat the subject of over-automation to death in previous posts!). The 752 in particular has performance and capabilities that no other single-aisle airliner can match...but the newest stretched 739s and A321s provide 80% of the capability at much lower cost, and so they're replacing 757s that are retired primarily to the cost of maintaining a high-cycle airframe.

As to your question, basically all the airlines do it the same way so I don't think there's a problem describing it in general terms. Both domestic and int'l, we're planned for a specific cost index which takes load, temperature, winds aloft, etc into account. This cost index usually results in a cruise mach somewhere between .78 and .81. However when going TransAtlantic, separation requires an assigned mach while on the tracks. If separation isn't an issue, captains have the authority to speed up or slow down based on ride, whether we're early or late, etc...but internationally, even a small change can have a big impact on your landing fuel load, so you monitor your usage vs planned very carefully and keep the dispatcher in the loop for changes. Long story short, we can end up cruising anywhere between .75 and .83. Average is .80 I'd say.

Anonymous said...

Wow sounds like we have some great posts coming from you in the upcoming days hopefully! Not months :) Great to hear from you as always. Matt from KDSM.

Dave Starr said...

Thanks for taking the time for such an informative answer, Sam. I learned a lot. So basically one could say that going, say, westbound over the Pacific, the cruise Mach of, say a 772 versus something like a 774 would depend much more on corporate and operational factors than the type of aircraft. (of course in a very few years there probably won't even BE any 744's, so why am I even asking)?

Pacers are more fun anyway. Be well.

Sam Weigel said...

Ah, I'm not sure about other fleets, though I do know the 744 cruises a bit faster than the twins, up to about .85M. Over the Pacific there's a lot more flexibility on speed than on the NATs, depending on where you are. This based on my 4 crossings to date, of course! ;-)

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Hey Sam!

Flying on a Delta 757 redeye flight from SEA to JFK in about a wouldn't happen to be flying it would you? Just curious...happy flying!


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